How does a county like Broward, with a diverse population of more than 1.8 million, celebrate its 100th birthday in a couple hours?
That’s the challenge Neil Goldberg, creator of the international hit, “Cirque Dreams,” accepted more than a year ago.
“2015 was supposed to be a bit of a break for me,” he recalled. “Then I began reading and seeing things about Broward 100 and the theme, ‘The Art of Community.’ That was fascinating to me.”
For more than 25 years, Goldberg has lived with his partner and worked in a non-descript studio in Pompano Beach, mounting dazzling productions that have played Broadway and toured the globe, thrilling millions. But, 95 percent of his work, he estimated, was performed outside the state of Florida.
“I choose to live here,” he said. “But this was a real opportunity to finally connect with my community.”
Intrigued with the possibilities, Goldberg approached the Broward County Cultural Division and volunteered to produce a show that would not only capture the history and evolution of the county, but also showcase the talents of its residents.
“They embraced me with open arms,” he said, and the hard work began.
More than 3000 performers showed up at open auditions at the Broward Center, “quite the cattle call,” Goldberg described it, “from the aspiring to the retiring, but it added fuel to my fire and the passion I had for the project.”
He discovered talented bands of Caribbean, African and Daiko drummers, Irish dancers, folk singers and more. Not all were professionals. Many were businesspeople and government employees, parents and professors, leading Goldberg to the story of “We.”
“We quickly realized this show was much greater than any individual entertainer or the anniversary itself,” he explained. “The word, ‘we,’ started to come up everywhere.”
Goldberg and his creative team wrote a story about a series of couples beginning in 2015. After an opening number with more than 50 people on the Au Rene Theater stage, a pair of adults would walk into the sunset, only to transport the audience back in time, where other couples would reveal the unfolding milestones in the history of Broward County.
These couples also reflect the diversity of the county’s residents from teenagers and twentysomethings to a gay couple from Wilton Manors.
Goldberg said, “We tried to touch on as many different aspects of life here in Broward County and each couple brings a unique skill or talent.”
More than 250 performers, craftsmen and technicians have been diligently working on the production and, on Saturday, Oct. 3, they will be joined on the stage by Grammy Award-winning recording artist Jon Secada and Broadway legend Linda Eder for one performance only.
But when the curtain goes down on that historic show, Goldberg hopes its legacy will be far-reaching, extending beyond the actual centennial festivities.
“From the onset, when I met with the folks from Broward County, the goal was to be a launching pad for things to come. That was one of the most exciting aspects—to unturn a couple of stones and reveal to our community the depth of talent living next door to each of us,” he explained.
And he hopes the magic won’t be limited to just the performing arts, also inspiring artists of all kinds, from sculptors to writers, to share their talents in creative ways with their neighbors.
Ultimately, he said, “It’s not what you have, but what you do with it. We have a lot of ‘haves’ in our community and with just a little bit of passion and hard work, we can make something that is amazing.”
That’s the story of “WE.”
“WE: The Passion & Rhythm of the People,” created by Neil Goldberg, will be presented on Saturday, Oct. 3 at 8 p.m. at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts. Tickets are $25 – 85 at BrowardCenter.org.