By STEVEN HOWELL
---- — MONTREAL — The lumberjacks have set up camp just north of the border.
La Tohu presents its all-ages holiday production “Timber!” by circus troupe Cirque Alfonse, which runs now through Monday, Dec. 31.
Cirque Alfonse co-founder and performer Antoine Carabinier got the inspiration for “Timber!” from days spent at his family home in St. Alphonse-Rodriguez, which is about an hour and a half north of Montreal, during his youth.
“Oh, it’s in the woods,” Carabinier quipped. He even named his circus troupe after the town.
The troupe created the show in a barn on the property.
“We rebuilt the barn to have a nice place to rehearse,” he said.
Carabinier incorporated elements he found in the barn into the act — everything from a wood-plank table to a wagon wheel. To warm up before rehearsals, the troupe even chopped wood.
“And we used real wood, real axes and real saws, just like we do in the show.
“So our props are based on the actual tools used by a lumberjack,” he said.
Additionally, Carabinier said the show is based on his family. Sharing the stage with him are his dad, sister, stepbrother and nephew.
“Everybody is on stage,” he quipped.
Carabinier and fellow cast members Jonathan Casaubon and Guillaume Saladin all trained in circus performing arts. They learned their craft at the Montreal Circus School about 15 years ago. His sister, Julie, has her background as a professional dancer. Carabinier said that his dad, now 66 years old, is enjoying a second career as a circus performer.
“He used to hang wallpaper,” Carabineer said. “He’s been performing in our circus for the past six years.”
Carabinier said that performing with his dad “is a gift.
“My parents supported me throughout my education,” he said. “And my dad has always wanted to be on stage, but he never got the chance. So I’m glad we gave him that chance.”
Carabinier’s 5-year-old nephew also acts as a performer, and his mom is a part of the team as tour director.
“She’s more shy. She doesn’t perform on stage but takes care of all the business part,” he said.
Moms usually do.
The story about this lumberjack family on stage is highlighted by traditional Quebec music. The show features three live musicians who play the likes of accordions and banjos.
“The music was created just for the show,” he said. “It’s a full combination of music, dance and circus.”
A show about lumberjacks comes with some unique circus acrobatics and props. Be prepared to see performers juggle axes, and for some action over a two-manned, double-handled, crosscut lumber-jack saw — you know, the kind that has dozens of tiny, sharp teeth.
“We use the saw instead of a jump rope,” Carabinier said.
Carabinier said that Cirque Alfonse has worked in the past with luminary circus troupes such as Cirque Eloise and even Cirque du Soleil. About seven years ago, he decided it was time to start his own circus company.
“It was time to do our own thing,” he said.
The creation of Cirque Alfonse proved to be a very good move. After the initial success of the troupe’s first show, “La Brunante,” and the positive reviews of “Timber!,” which debuted last year, Carabinier is taking his circus act on the road. After its Montreal holiday run, “Timber!” will travel to France and Switzerland. Talks are also in the works for the show to run in London and New York.
With all that traveling, Carabinier won’t have to leave his family behind.
“Performing is a different way of living,” he said. “You’re always on tour and often you miss your family. Now, we won’t miss our family because everyone is together.”
Steven Howell is the author of Montreal Essential Guide, a Sutro Media iPhone travel app available at iTunes.com.IF YOU GO WHAT: "Timber!" WHEN: Through Monday, Dec. 31. Shows are at 2 p.m. (matinee) and 8 p.m. WHERE: La Tohu is at 2345 Jarry St. E. (at the corner of Iberville Street), Montreal. After crossing the border, take Autoroute 15 North to Route 132/20 east. Then take the Jacques Cartier Bridge. Cross the bridge into Montreal, and bear left. This will put you on Avenue de Lorimier. Continue for about 15 minutes until you see the Highway 40 overpass. Turn right just before the overpass onto Jarry Street. Go a few blocks and make your way under the overpass. La Tohu will be on the left. ADMISSION: Adult admission ranges from $28 to $42. Tickets for those age 25 and under cost $30. Tickets for children age 15 and under cost $25. CONTACT: Call (514) 376-8648, or visit www.tohu.com or www.okidok.be.