[ATTENDED: March 15, 2012] The Big Apple Circus
When I was a kid, we went to the Ringling Bros. Circus a few times. (I still have the program). I had never been to the Big Apple Circus. When we saw that it was in Bridgewater a few years ago we went (Tabitha was a baby and fell asleep after the intermission). The year after that, the kids both enjoyed the show. We missed last year due to a scheduling conflict.
When we heard that this was going to be grandma’s last year of the show, we decided we had to go. For those of you unfamiliar with the Big Apple Circus, the one constant every year is “Grandma:” an old clown lady who meanders into the ring, causes mischief and is generally very funny. Grandma, played by Barry Lubin, is leaving the show because “Mr. Lubin will spirit Grandma away to Sweden, where he moved last January to live with his partner, Ann Hageus” (NY Times).
I assumed there would be a huge send off to Grandma, but it was a surprisingly low-key show for her. She had some great bits and was very entertaining (as always) but there was no major farewell. Oh well.
The big surprise for our show was that Dr Oz was the surprise host. And he handed out really stinky paper rulers (I can’t get over how badly they smelled) so that we could all measure our waists to see if we were fat or not. Okay, first of all most of us don’t need to measure to see if we’re fat. Second, this is a circus–not a single foodstuff out there is good for you. Was I really going to measure my waist while holding my kids’ cotton candy. No, I was just going to feel like a fat schlub. Yaay! Fun for the whole family.
My biggest victory of the night was when Dr Oz came into the crowd and his publicist asked if I (we) wanted to meet him and I was able to curtly say “No” and watch her look of surprise. I have better things to do than to meet a TV doctor, thank you very much.
Like watch a circus.
Hot on the heels of being annoyed by Dr Oz, I was a little dismissive of the beginning of the circus (Dr Oz, is it healthy to hold a grudge?). So when the Chinese acrobats came out and did their jump rope routine I was comparing it unfavorably to the Peking Acrobats. And in absolute fairness, there’s no way that the Big Apple Circus is getting acrobats as good as the Peking Acrobats, even if they were from Peking.
But in retrospect, the stuff they did was pretty darn amazing. The highlight was a jump rope routing in which they formed a pyramid of six and still jumped rope. That was very cool.
There was a woman who did rope tricks, not unlike the rope tricks that the Peking Acrobats did. The difference was that she had a bit more room and did some interesting variations on what the Peking Acrobats did. I was a little put off by this act because it was introduced as a boy in the audience’s fantasy. So when the woman came out in a skin-tight body suit, I was a little uncomfortable (they did not make any jokes about that, thankfully). But she did some pretty amazing stunts. I especially liked the way she wrapped herself up in the rope (which was cool in and of itself) and then flipped over and over like a top heading toward the ground.
The Big Apple Circus is known for its small animal show. So when a horse rain out of the mist into the middle of the stage, my daughter was so excited. Her mouth just dropped open with joy. Two more horses came out and they did their short running-around routine. I was a little disappointed in the routine as they basically just ran around, but really, what can you do with a horse that’s not cruel?
But when the dogs came out that was another story! Dogs can leap over each other and do funny routines involving their hair getting trimmed and all kinds of stuff. Imagine my surprise when they brought out some “exotic” animals to do a few brief routines–
[SPOILER ALERT: pig, a porcupine! and a capybara!!]
After that all was forgiven.
The strong lady was truly amazing. She did many things that the Peking Acrobats did (there’s not that many different ways you can prove that you are strong) but she was really amazing and she did a few lifts that were really physics-defying.
For me, aside from the exotic animals, the highlight was the magician. I didn’t care for his assistant who was a screeching lady with a big frizzy wig on (but the kids seemed to love her, so that’s what works). His magic was funny and really clever. His entrance itself was amazing (and I’m still not exactly sure how it was done). And when he went to saw his assistant in half, the magic was wonderful and funny and surprising. Even after I was told how it was done (I won’t reveal the secret) by a magician’s assistant, I am still amazed by the showmanship.
The final act was trapezeists (trapezers?). This was the very first time that I (or Sarah) saw a trapezer miss! (They had a net). It was really quite surprising (for us, although not her). I was more surprised that she didn’t get to try again. I guess if you mess up twice that’s worse. But the rest of the act was flawless. It was also the first time I saw someone at the end of an act leap off the trapeze, hit the net and catch his trapeze again. That was very cool.
Musically the show was fascinating. The band is in an orchestral section above the stage and during the more crazy acts, the electric guitar was playing some wild and crazy solos. This guy was really going to town. It was impressive. There was also a musical saw–which I thought was pretty cool but which bored the kids no end).
Every year the circus has to cycle in new acts or else it would be the same thing every year. So while in the past we have loved certain things–the strong men trio the one year were amazing, the hula hooper was amazing another year, there are always new favorite things. So when the acrobats came out in the crazy costumes with what looked like spikes all over them (see the picture above right) and did amazing leaps and flips onto each other, it was great.
And the juggler.
This year a juggler came out with a body suit that had funnels in 8 locations. Each funnel held a ball about the size of a cantaloupe. And he not only juggled these large balls, he also caught them in the funnels and often put them back in the funnels and then took them out as part of the routine. It was amazing to watch and I have never seen a juggler with an outfit that held the balls before. Original and very cool.
Overall, it was a very enjoyable show. The coolest part was when we left and Clark (who sat with some friends instead of us–oh, he’s growing up) said, “They did things that were impossible!” That made it all worthwhile.