Big top pop
Audiences for Cirque Musica have been hearing Debbie Gibson’s music on the show’s current tour.
The ’80s pop star and Broadway veteran wrote two songs for the touring production.
But Youngstown is the only city on the tour where audiences also will see her.
Gibson will perform the two songs she wrote as well as a medley of her hits when Cirque Musica, backed by the Youngstown Symphony Orchestra, comes to the Covelli Centre for two shows next week.
Gibson, who spoke last week at Youngstown State University, said the job writing for Cirque Musica was a fluke.
“I was performing a few symphony shows this past year for Steve Cook, the producer of Cirque Musica,” Gibson said. “We were on a flight home and talking about his various projects, and I said, ‘Steve, always remember, I always feel like I’m a composer before I’m a singer.’ And he said, ‘Funny you should mention that. I really desperately need two songs very quickly for Cirque Musica. Before the plane took off, I was running up the aisle singing him the intro to ‘Birdsong.’
“Something either clicks with me or it doesn’t. I’ve said to people before who approached me with projects that didn’t resonate, I’ve said, ‘I don’t think I’m your girl for this. It’s not connecting with me.’ But with this it was immediate. Within three days both songs were written and we started working the orchestrations.”
Gibson wrote “Be the Music,” which is used for the Cirque Musica’s finale as well as “Birdsong,” which accompanies an aerial act. She watched video of the different performers for inspiration.
“I knew the acts that were coming on for the finale, so I watched all of those,” she said. “I knew there was going to be a lot going on, so I wanted it to be really epic and strong. I knew I wanted people leaving clapping and singing along, but I didn’t want it hokey. I wanted it to be kind of syncopated and rich and deep.”
For “Birdsong,” she also drew inspiration from the video, but once the song was finished, the performance was tailored to the music.
“I’m looking forward to playing off of her in the live show because it’s an emotional song for me,” Gibson said. “It’s about when you’re broken down and trying to find your voice. With that visual, she’s so graceful and dramatic, I look forward to that interaction.”
In addition to the original music by Gibson and composer Marcelo Zarvos, the production includes such familiar classical works as the Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Flight of the Bumblebee” and Holst’s “The Planets” as well as music by film composer John Williams and a musical salute to the Beatles. All of it will be performed by members of the Youngs-town Symphony Orchestra.
The music will accompany such acts as David Larible, the Italian clown who was a headlining act with Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, and Rietta and Lyric Wallenda from one of the most famous families in circus history, the Flying Wallendas.
Gibson recorded the songs for Cirque Musica’s CD, but this will be the first time she’s sung them live.
“I love performing live. Pardon the pun, but it’s like walking on a high wire if you’re in the moment, and this time it will really be a high wire because I’ve never performed these songs live before. To be surrounded by the spectacle and to feel these songs come to life is very exciting for me.”
She is a little disappointed she’ll only be singing with them. Gibson is a veteran of such reality shows as “Celebrity Apprentice” and “Skating with the Stars,” but she said she would love to have done “Circus of the Stars,” which aired on CBS in the ’70s, ’80s and early ’90s.
“I consider myself to be a wannabe gymnast / ballerina. I’m very athletic. Lord help them if I was really on the road with them. I’d be enlisting them to teach me the trapeze.”