(PCM) For a thrilling way to escape the winter cold one doesn’t have to look any further than the current Philadelphia premiere of “Saloon – A Musical Acrobatic Adventure.”
The Wild West will come to life on stage in the exciting new show, swinging into the Kimmel Center’s Merriam Theater on Friday, Jan, 13, and Saturday, Jan.14. This is the 11th and newest production from the Montreal-based contemporary circus troupe, Cirque Eloize.
Front and center in this show with precise acrobatics, as well as expert comic timing, is acrobat and funny man Johan Prytz, who is front and center in this show. He blends his background in acrobatics, and comedy to the delight of audience members of all ages.
Born in Sweden, Prytz first studied at a high school specializing in sports. He moved to Denmark at age 21 to enter the AFUK Circus School of Copenhagen where he discovered the wonderful world of contemporary circus. This experience changed his perspective on life.
After two years, Prytz moved to Canada and began his four-year training at the National Circus School of Montreal, where he specialized in aerial straps. He also provides comic relief — he’s the ‘cowboy without a horse!’ He became enthralled with the art of the circus that he decided to make it his career. He calls the production of “Saloon,” the opportunity of a lifetime he is thrilled to share with audiences around the globe.
“Cirque Éloize has a long history of transporting audiences to a specific place and time through their magical performances and this newest creation will surely follow suit,” said Anne Ewers, the president and CEO of the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts.
“Saloon, is the perfect addition to our Broadway Philadelphia season, a theatrical fusion of music and tremendous acrobatic feats that come together to tell an inspiring story.”
Inspired by the rich legacy of the Wild West, “Saloon” transports audiences to a dusty gathering place. For a perfect night of family entertainment, just swing open the “Saloon” doors and rustle up some fun for the entire family with this musical and acrobatic adventure.
The stage fizzes and pulses with infectious energy and phenomenal physical feats as 11 top-level cast members perform for a music-packed theatrical thrill-ride! Everyone in the audience should prepare to be blown away by a chase worthy of the great Westerns.
“The Saloon is a wonderful playground for work of artistic exploration. It’s also a place of opportunity, one that made us want to try something different,” Jeannot Painchaud, the president and artistic Director of Cirque Éloize and the creative Director of Saloon.
“This show has the physical energy of acrobatics combined with the poetry of the theatrical approach, punctuated with humor and accompanied by amazing live music,” Painchaud said. “ Saloon is bright, funny and musical.”
Staying close to the musical roots of the artistic director and musical director, who happen to be cousins, “Saloon” mixes country extracts (Patsy Cline and Johnny Cash) with more festive, folk-inspired compositions. There are four musicians and singers on stage, and all the artists sing or play instruments.
“Saloon” director Emmanuel Guillaume has put together an acrobatic comedy with 11 top-level, multidisciplinary artists performing with exuberance and humour: “Saloon is an invitation to the party, a fertile ground for emotions where everything is permitted,” he said. “It’s also a meeting of different art forms that were already part of the rich heritage of this mythical place back then.”
Q: How did you get started with your career?
JOHAN PRYTZ: I used to be an athlete special high school in Sweden for handball players and then I broke my knee when I was 17, so I had to quit. I started juggling during my rehab and I met more people from the circus. So that took over in my life from sports. I started with a very small recreational circus in Sweden, and that led me to meet more people doing circus more seriously. When I was 20 I moved to circus school in Copenhagen. Then I did the national circus in Montreal and was picked up for “Saloon.”
Q: When did you start working on “Saloon?”
JP: We started in May. I am contracted with the show for a year and a half. I was approached late in the process; they saw I would fit better with the other comedic role. Our director gave us a lot of freedom with the writing. It was a big challenge for everyone and very fun, and he let us express ourselves as artists. It’s a very human show. The performers had a big part in creating the show, and this comes through in the fun and playfullness of the show.
Q: Have you always been funny?
JP: I would like to say yes, but if you ask some of my friends, maybe not.
Q: How do you feel you got to this point in performing?
JP: From quite early on in my career, I always enjoyed exploring physical comedy, and written and spoken comedy on stage. I always developed an interest in and taken every opportunity I could in the different comic styles and art forms. I guess it all starts out as a bit of a talent and you nurture it and much of it comes with a great deal of practice.
Q: Would you call this a family show?
JP: I would say definitely. It’s a family-oriented fun comedy. It’s an homage and parody of the western culture.
Q: Tell me about life on the road? It is good, bad, exciting or lonely?
JP: Everything at once. We travel all over the world. So there are so many experiences and we get to learn about the world, all the cultures, and we get to meet so many amazing people. Yes, it can be tiring and lonely. We live out of a backpack and in hotel rooms. There are long bus rides and airplane flights. I still have an apartment in Montreal, but I’m not there much. The other downside is that relationships back home are difficult. I have many friends from the Montreal circus community, but we never cross paths, so in that way it’s a difficult situation. We have hectic work schedules, especially during short runs in many cities. The show is physically demanding, and you have to stay rested and healthy as you travel around. Yet, today I couldn’t imagine doing a different job. So the good aspects outweigh the bad ones.
Q: Are you close friends with the other performers in the show?
JP: Oh, yes. We are one big family. This is a team of 15 artists and technical crew, so we are one family. We always hang out and make sure each of us is okay – we are there for one another if someone is having a problem. This is a family feeling, and that’s important. Your life is the tour, so it helps to have people looking out for one another.
Q: Will you please describe the show for me?
JP: It’s a Wild, Wild West Adventure. It’s a throwback to the old spaghetti westerns. There are colorful characters coming into the old saloon. It’s an action-filled, cheesy, love story; with tons of humor and crazy events. So I would say it’s a crazy action-filled Wild West adventure. There is amazing live music from the four musicians, who set the tone and bring this world to life in a whole new way.
Q: How do you rehearse the acrobatics?
JP: Mostly with individual training. If there is time during the day, in between or before the shows. If there is something that is not working well in the show, we go over it. There is two hours of prep time between each show. We make sure everything stays fresh. It is our responsibility to stay in shape and be technically prepared as well.
Q: How do you stay in shape?
JP: I undergo conditioning before and after the shows, and usually that’s enough for me to stay in shape. The show keeps all of us in really good shape. When we are off tour I go to the gym, and there is a studio where I do straps so I am prepared for when we go back on tour.
Q: Have your family members seen this show?
JP: My family came in Germany during the months of November and December when we were in Munich, Germany, since that was as close as we came to Sweden. My mother, my aunt, cousins, and friends.
Q: Have you been in Philadelphia before?
JP: No, this will be the first time and I am looking forward to seeing the city. I have a few friends from the city and I am looking forward to forming my own impression.
Q: What do you hope for your future?
JP: For now, to just keep performing and enjoy the life that we have, and move on with the show. After that, we will see where the show can go. At some point we have to figure out a career after the physical circus career. In the long run, I might stay in the circus community as a coach or in physio therapy. But for now, I am thoroughly enjoying where this show can go and all of the exciting adventures it will take us on. I am a truly lucky man.
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
CIRQUE ÉLOIZE SALOON at the Merriam Theater
Dates and times: Friday, January 13, 2017, 8 p.m.Saturday, January 14, 2017, 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.