This holiday season, residents of Santa Clarita will have the chance to experience live entertainment with a unique circus show.
From Dec. 20 through 23, Wolf Creek Brewery will host the “Cracked Nuts: A Holiday Circus Spectacular” show at the Crystal Palace Spiegeltent.
The show, whose name alludes to the classic “Nutcracker” story, takes a trip through the zany dreams of a child on the night before Christmas after his parents put on a show to get him to sleep. According to Matt Morgan, who directs and will perform in the show, “Cracked Nuts” is a European-style circus show and is likely different from circuses audiences have seen before.
“Our show stripped down the clown makeup, floppy shoes and animals and it’s more like a variety show that highlights the talent and comedy of our actors,” Morgan said. “We do the show ‘in the round’ so the performers are in the center of the audience and it’s more intimate and engaging than the American circus model. We want to stay away from the passive shows where people just sit back with their arms crossed.”
Morgan said he also likes to incorporate local talent into his shows and will feature local musician Karli Webster in the show. Peter Goossens, president of the company that owns the spiegeltent and a co-producer for the show, had hosted Webster’s first concerts in the tent and suggested Morgan invite her to be part of the production. Webster agreed as a break from working on her own music, and is collaborating with Morgan to adapt the show to best highlight her talent.
“As soon as they asked I said yes because the stranger situations I can implement my music into the better, and a circus just sounded like a lot of fun,” Webster said. “I love the story and I love Christmas, so I’m very excited to be involved. It’s nice to work with such passionate people on a professional-caliber production.”
“We heard her music and we’re excited to have her touching voice provide some live music for the show,” Morgan said. “She’s very connected to her sound which is what we’re trying to do with our circus show, connect. We’ll adapt our show to incorporate her in a way that makes her feel comfortable and allows us to perform our material in a new way.”
The Crystal Palace Spiegeltent, originally built in 1947, is the only traveling spiegeltent in the United States and was the perfect place to perform the show for Morgan because it helps emphasize the old world, European tradition that his show hopes to capture. Spiegeltents are travelling dance halls that were common in central Europe during the late 19th century. Goossens said the show is the result of many years of collaboration.
“I’ve seen Matt’s performances over the years and I always wanted to try to bring them to Santa Clarita,” Goossens said. “I think that we’re both doing something similar in that we’re keeping these old traditions alive. I really admire Matt’s shows because I thought the circus would have disappeared years ago.”
Goossens added that he believes the reason the circus is still alive and appealing is because there are few entertainment opportunities that have the same kind of magic as witnessing death-defying acts live.
The hardest part of the process for Morgan is convincing people to come see the shows because he said that circuses do not have as much of a strong, mainstream tradition in America and that it’s popular to hate clowns thanks to movies like “It.”
“The most challenging part is convincing people that the shows are unique and rewarding because people don’t really do circus out here,” he said. “The most rewarding part is actually getting people to see the show and interacting with them, hopefully convincing someone in the audience that circus is a possible career.”
Even as a performer, Webster said “Cracked Nuts” is unlike any show that she’s ever seen and she said the uniqueness alone should encourage people to see it.
“Santa Clarita has never had a show like this before and it opens the door for us to have more like it,” she said. “I mean, who goes to the circus during Christmas? I never have and I think it’s a wonderful idea.”
Tickets for “Cracked Nuts” can be purchased at crackednutscircus.com and start at $27.50 for general admission.