Cirque du Soleil's Evan Tomlinson Weintraub Finds his Niche in Holiday Show

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Saturday December 3, 2022
Originally published on November 30, 2022

Evan Thomlinson Weintraub (left) in a promotional photo for Cirque du Soleil's "Twas the Night Before..."
Evan Thomlinson Weintraub (left) in a promotional photo for Cirque du Soleil's "Twas the Night Before..."  (Source:© 2022 Cirque du Soleil. All rights reserved. Photographer: Yagub Allahverdiyev)

Cirque du Soleil has done so many shows along so many themes that a holiday show seems like a given. And yet, it wasn't until 2019 that the internationally famed troupe, which is known for its blend of music, theater, and circus-style acrobatics, premiered its very first Christmas-themed offering, "Twas the Night Before..."

The show is an extended riff on the 1823 Clement Clarke Moore poem "A Visit from Old Saint Nick." The poem's first line may be the most famous from any poem in history, and it's the opening words that give the show its title.

If you've never seen "Twas the Night Before..." then you might want to check out some of the clips on YouTube (one is included in this article). Like a modern, high-energy "Nutcracker Suite," the spectacle, written by James Hadley and directed by Manuel Bissonnette, whisks a young girl into a fantastical land of Christmas imagery... only, in this case, it's table acrobats in candy-cane costumes topped off with unicorn horns and hoop divers clad in outfits that look like horse jockey uniforms crossed with "Saturday Night Fever" disco couture.

Evan Tomlinson Weintraub is one of the acrobats, showing off his skills during the course of the show. Asked about the colorful costumes in the table acrobatics set piece, the out California native laughs, "Our candy cane onesies? That comes from the part on the poem that goes, 'The children were nestled all snug in their beds.' We act as children in the bed, and we get really excited about Santa coming, so — like a sugar rush —we're jumping around and getting excited for the presents that are about to arrive."

As for the disco-looking horse racers, the horns sprouting from those jockey caps actually identify them as Santa's team of flying reindeer. "We're the athletic reindeer jumping through hoops and flying through the sky and doing all the cool stuff," Tomlinson Weintraub explains. "Our costume designer, James Lovelock, did a really great job of capturing the magic of Christmas, and all the glitter and sparkle that comes with the holidays."

Look at the reindeer closely, and you can see their names written across the backs of their gold-lame jackets. "This year, like I was last year, I'm Prancer," Tomlinson Weintraub adds.

Here's what else the talented acrobat had to tell EDGE about the touring show, which lands in Boston at the Wang Theater from Nov. 25 - Dec. 11.

Evan Tomlinson Weintraub and cast members of Cirque du Soleil's "Twas the Night Before..."
Evan Tomlinson Weintraub and cast members of Cirque du Soleil's "Twas the Night Before..."  

EDGE: From the clips online, it looks like the classic Christmas poem has been given it a modern "Nutcracker" interpretation.

Evan Tomlinson Weintraub: You can definitely think about it like that. The story is, our main character, Isabella, is a teenager now, 13 or 14 years old, and she's kind of [busy with] Tik Tok and her iPhone and all these things. In the past, her dad and her would read the poem together, but this year she's like, "I don't care. I want to do Tik Tok dances. I want to talk to my friends." She gets swept away into a winter wonderland, where she and her father meet each other and come back together again with the spark and love Christmas.

EDGE: "Nutcracker" has an 18th or 19th century vibe, but here you've got break dancing, you've got modern takes on classic Christmas songs. It's very much a 21st century production.

Evan Tomlinson Weintraub: Absolutely. It was definitely James Hadley's vision to bring this poem into the 21st century with incredible hip hop dancing, choreographed by Vinh Nguyen, was famously choreographed for the Kinjaz. And for me, personally, it's really the dancers who hold the story together and bring us on this journey.

Evan Tomlinson Weintraub
Evan Tomlinson Weintraub  

EDGE: Have you been with this show from its 2019 premiere?

Evan Tomlinson Weintraub: Yeah. This is my third year. I was lucky enough to help originate the cast on this. It was a big whirlwind; we started this off in 2019, and we've been having a great time ever since.

EDGE: Christmas is a magical time of the year for many people. Is that true for you personally, as well?

Evan Tomlinson Weintraub: Absolutely. I come from a family that really emphasized getting together during the holidays and making sure that we are spending time together. I'm really lucky to be coming to Boston very soon and getting to spend Thanksgiving with my cousins before we open at the Wang Theater. This time of year, my focus is towards family and friends, and this show is special to me because I get to keep sharing that message of coming together.

EDGE Speaking of family, I don't know if you have a spouse or a partner who's waiting for you back home, but if you do, how do you balance the demands of being on tour for so much at the time with being in that relationship?

Evan Tomlinson Weintraub: I do have a partner, and we've been together for about four years now. I feel very lucky because I found a partner who has encouraged me to continue to pursue this career, as physically demanding and as internationally traveling as it is. He's here in Montreal, and I'm very lucky to have found him, and very lucky to have someone who's always backing me no matter where I go, no matter what I'm doing. It's really nice that I have a home and family not just in California, where I'm from, but here in Montreal, with my partner.

Evan Tomlinson Weintraub in rehearsal
Evan Tomlinson Weintraub in rehearsal  

EDGE: What's the "work family" experience like with your Cirque du Soleil cast mates? Are you all pretty close?

Evan Tomlinson Weintraub: It's incredible. We've got 26 cast members, which is a smaller show in terms of what Cirque du Soleil [has in a show]. We've got artists from 14 different countries. On my hoop diving team, every single person is from a different country. We're bringing all these different languages and cultures, but because we're all working towards putting this performance together, we bond so closely. It's hard work, and everyone gets really close because we're hanging out after rehearsal, we're making jokes, we're warming up together. It's been a culture of love and support, and just a close-knit family.

EDGE: It seems like the Cirque du Soleil brand is a blend of circus and theatre.

Evan Tomlinson Weintraub: Absolutely, especially James Hadley comes from. James Hadley had some experience on Broadway. This show, specifically, feels almost like a Broadway show — it has that sort of internal life of the character and is bringing forth those big emotions and expressing them on stage. For me, circus is sort of the catch-all of arts; you can really explore so many things in circus, be it dance, or theater, or even opera. There's so much to be explored with circus that you can really do whatever and figure out a way to make it work and make it interesting.

Watch the trailer to "Twas the Night Before..."

EDGE: It seems like there's quite a lot of representation of LGBTQ+ performers in the theater world, as well as the film world, the dance world, and so on. Is that true also of acrobatics and circus work?

Evan Tomlinson Weintraub: There is definitely a community, and we're a pretty strong community. What's interesting is that circus does have a very sort of straight community because it's almost like being a professional athlete. A lot of a lot of a lot of people gravitate towards that because it's physical work and because it's something that is challenging. But I think what's important about circus is that if you can do your job, it doesn't matter who you're sleeping with, or who you love. We just want to make sure that we're putting on the best show possible. It's always nice to have that community on tour, and really nice to have [LGBTQ+] people surrounding us in order to have a community, but it's not always 1,000% necessary.

EDGE: Every child at some point wants to run away and join the circus, and that's probably even more true for many in the LGBTQ+ community.

Evan Tomlinson Weintraub: [Laughing] How could you say no to glitter and sparkles and rhinestones, and things like that, as a young LGBTQ person? I mean, what an incredible world to enter into. But I also think that theater and circus, and especially Cirque du Soleil, bring so many characters that are not necessarily of this world, and it gives us a chance to be [something] other on stage, in front of people, and be applauded for it. So, there's maybe a little bit of psychology behind that of, "Oh, this is a place where we can really be celebrated for who we are, and for what we look like, and not necessarily [be judged] by society's standards."

EDGE: Being part of a touring production, do you notice a real difference in how audiences in different towns respond to the show?

Evan Tomlinson Weintraub: This show really brings [in] families. It's built for families to come and share together, and so we tend to get a lot of children in the audience. What's nice about children is that they're very honest. And what's so amazing about this show is that it just feeds all of the senses [with music and movement and lighting], and so there's always a response to what we're doing. The show sort of cultivates that, and it builds on itself. It's a pretty incredible experience.

"Twas the Night Before..." plays at the Wang Center Nov. 25 — Dec. 11. For more information, follow this link.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.