By John Benson
Traveling show Cirque Musica includes all of the elements you’d expect from a circus show. There are high-wire walkers, clowns and, wait, Debbie Gibson?
That’s right, the one-time teen pop star, who has sold more than 16 million albums worldwide, as well as starred on Broadway (“Les Miserables,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “Cabaret” and “Grease”), will be performing live when Cirque Musica comes to Youngstown’s Covelli Centre next week for two shows: Wednesday and next Thursday.
It turns out that not only did Gibson write two songs used in the Cirque Musica production, but for the first time she’ll be singing the tunes before a live audience.
“Well, yeah, I joked if they want to throw me up on a trapeze there, they can because I’m very into physical fitness and dance and stuff,” Gibson, calling from Los Angeles, said with a laugh. “I’m thrilled to be doing it. I jokingly mentioned if they ever needed any help, I’d love to do it.”
So here she is at Cirque Musica, which blends grace and daredevil athleticism into a modern circus show sans animals but heavy on performance and music. The action is set to music, which will be provided by members of the Youngstown Symphony Orchestra, who will be seated on the stage.
Gibson said she originally became involved in the project a few years ago when a producer she was working with on a different show asked her if she had any material that would fit the production.
This conversation took place on a plane, with Gibson saying she was literally running down the aisle humming him melodies. That tune became “Bird Song,” which was not only conceived in the air but, well, is the centerpiece behind the Cirque Musica aerialist performances.
“It’s a very emotionally rich song,” Gibson said. “It would be easy to write something very trite. We’ve all seen these shows where it’s kind of chanting music or something overly simple. I thought, ‘Why not move the audience and, at the same time, give them some food for thought?’ The song is very much about what happens when you’re kind of beaten down and finding your wings and finding your own voice again.”
Unlike most childhood entertainers who attempt to keep the career fire burning strong into adulthood, Gibson has enjoyed an amazing quarter of a century in the entertainment industry. She left behind pop music only to find success in musical theater. Lately, she’s ventured into acting with appearances on “Celebrity Apprentice” and in feature films “Mega Shark Versus Giant Octopus,” “Mega Python vs. Gatoroid” and “Rock of Ages.”
OK, fine, maybe the latter roles weren’t going to win her any Critics’ Choice awards, but you get the sense that Gibson isn’t hurting for money or credibility. Instead, she’s just taking one gig after another.
“The main thing for me is writing and music,” Gibson said. “When I was in Youngstown last week, I spoke to some students. One of them said, ‘You’re there and I’m here. How do I get from here to there?’ I said, ‘There is no there. There’s only where you are and what you want to do moment to moment. It’ll lead you wherever you’re meant to be. But if you’re looking out there and thinking about money and fame, you’re never going to be fulfilled. You’re never going to get that there.’ That’s how I live my life, day to day.”
As far as Gibson’s upcoming visit to the Buckeye State, she’ll be performing her two Cirque Musica songs, as well as hits from the ’80s.
The show also features David “Clown of Clowns” Larible, the world-famous Wallenda Highwire Duo, the thrilling Espana Family and more.
“I just want the audience to escape,” Gibson said. “When they hear ‘Bird Song,’ maybe they don’t escape, but instead turn inward and realize their own power and their own strength, which is what the song is about. The show takes people on a journey, not to sound cliche, with so many elements. It’s just a great family night out.”