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Last Wednesday afternoon, a chiseled male gymnast — face made up to resemble a feline's — lifted and flung a tiny female counterpart around a stage set up at Lincoln Road Mall as new-age music wailed from speakers. Diners at nearby outdoor tables watched the preview of Cirque du Soleil's newest show, coming to Bicentennial Park November 13, without dropping their chopsticks. It was very SoBe.
And it reminded Riptide that the eccentric circus nearly called the Beach home in 2006. Problem was that Soleil, in its best imitation of H. Wayne Huizenga, wanted taxpayers to shell out more than half of the $100 million in renovations needed to fix up the Jackie Gleason Theater.
Though some Beachers were positive the circus would lure new tourists, the anti-Soleil camp was more vociferous — and concert venue giant Live Nation got the spot, turning it into The Fillmore, which opened last October.
One of the controversy's loudest voices was music promoter Roger Abramson, who based a failed city commission candidacy on opposition to the circus proposal. The Fillmore hasn't done much for some Beach residents, he says. "As far as the city is concerned, they say, 'Good riddance; we don't have to think about the Gleason anymore,'" Abramson says. "As far as the community goes, I don't know. I know there are a lot of people who used to go to the Gleason who don't now. They could've had a broader base."
A Live Nation publicist, Woody Graber, says the venue is a success. Performances by N.E.R.D, Common, Danzig, Jerry Seinfeld, Widespread Panic, and My Morning Jacket have all drawn large crowds. "For the first time, South Florida has a true concert hall for music. We've booked some pretty big acts, and in a huge cross section of genres."
Ray Breslin, president of the Collins Park Neighborhood Association, holds out hope that Cirque du Soleil will get another shot when Live Nation's six-year contract is up. "It could still happen, definitely," he says.
Don't hold your breath, Ray. A Soleil publicist denies the circus has any plans for a permanent South Florida home.