[ATTENDED: March 9, 2013] The Big Apple Circus
Clark’s Cub Scout pack got tickets to the Big Apple Circus again this year and we decided to go. Once again the Circus came right on the heels of Chinese acrobats, so I didn’t think I would be impressed, but once again, the circus did a very good job. I’ll get my one gripe out of the way first. Our seats were awful. Not the circus’ fault obviously, but they claim that there are no bad seats. And while ours weren’t bad (we were to the back right of the circus floor), all of the action is played to the front, so we missed a lot of the most dramatic poses, we missed the backdrops that they put up and clearly missed the overall feel of the show. And given how many seats were empty in the good section, I was a little bummed. Because the show itself was spectacular.
The signature character of grandma was gone, replaced by a funny clown couple (Acrobuffos), who did a lot of grandma’s interactions with the crowd, but as more of a jealous couple routine. They were quite funny and I’m impressed that the woman had some kind of playballs in her pants making her rear enormous–and she was able to actually bounce on them.
I also didn’t realize when we went that there was a story/theme of the history of the circus or the history of New York, or some kind of history (Legendarium!). Including a penny farthing bicycle! So there were stories about circuses of old and some story about Broadway and arrowheads. The ringmaster was decent but nothing special. But again, you go for the acts, not the ringmaster.
It felt like this year’s show was a little less over the top. The individual acts did amazing things but they were the kind of slow amazing of contortionists rather than the big amazing of huge spectacle.
The show opened with a solo trapeze guy (and a story about Mr Leotard who created the leotard). He did some cool stunts, but I have to admit, he was connected to a wire and I found it really distracting. I’m all for him being safe, and I’m quite certain the line had no impact on his stunts, but the line was so big I was actually watching that more than him. But there were one or two things he did when he flew from the trapeze to a rope which were really amazing.
Then came the horses. The horse acts at the Big Apple Circus are a highlight for the kids. Mostly they run around, although this year there were three black and three white and they did some interweaving which looked very cool–I had to wonder if that makes the horses tense doing that. There was no trick riding, but when the team of little ponies came out it was quite an entrance, and Tabitha loved that.
They were followed by the contortionist. We saw some at the Chinese Acrobats, but this woman was different. She was quite tall (and given how skinny she was, she was quite busty). But she did contortions that rivaled the Chinese Acrobats. We all admitted that from our vantage point on the side, seeing her ribs stick out was really more gross than anything. However, when she did the grand finale–which I have to spoil for everyone a little because it was so amazing–I was blown away. They brought out a bow and arrow which she shot–with her feet while doing a handstand. Wow. (I suppose I should write their names to see if they are the same ones next year–Elayne Kramer)
The program lists acrobats, but I have no recollection of them at all. So either they were awful, or they weren’t there. There definitely weren’t any massive leaping and springing acrobats like in years past, (and seeing a picture online, we certainly didn’t see men throwing a woman in the air) so maybe they had the night off.
The first Act ended with the slack wire. I’m still trying to decide if the slack wire is easier or harder than the tight rope. But whichever, it’s incredible and this year’s slack wire guy, Zhang Fan, was pretty stunning. There were a few times where it looked like he was losing his balance and I had to wonder if that was real or showmanship. And he did an amazing stunt on a unicycle, but his work with a ladder on the wire was amazing.
Act II opened with Daniel Cyr and his Roue Cyr, which is a giant hoop–almost exactly like the ones the Chines Acrobats used (which was a weird coincidence I thought . The ringmaster says that Cyr invented his the Wheel (hence its name) and perhaps he did–his had an entirely different kind of showmanship from the Chinese Acrobats–almost a story line. But It’s funny that the two acts used similar apparatus in rather different ways
The dog act was also fun. I guess there’s nothing too special about a dog act–they jump on things and over things and it’s cute. As this one was. It’s always fun to watch the dogs do the jumps. This one started out with a little skit in which the dog escaped his leash and ate the man’s lunch, which was quite funny. And we were all touched when they said that her dogs all come from shelters.
Katerina came out to do some high-flying acts with silks–where she wraps herself in them and spins down them like a top. The Circus had someone do that last year who was better and Katerina’s bit was very short which was fine.
Then came one of the major highlights–Menno and Emily the Tango Jugglers. The two danced a tango–a very sexy tango–and all the while Menno was juggling both balls and pins. And they never missed a step or a beat in the complex dance. It was an amazing mix of beauty and sexiness and the utter silliness of juggling. Fantastic.
Another major highlight was “Desire of Flight” in which an (incredibly strong) man swung around on wires while his partner an (incredibly strong) woman clung to him. There were no nets or wires and she held on by her hands and arms and at one point by her feet. It was utterly mindblowing.
The final act was introduced as trick riding But I never would have guessed that the Salian Troupe were eight girls on bicycles! And man did they do tricks. Continually going in a circle, they switched riders, rode backwards, leapt from one bike to another and generally blew us all away.
As always the band was great–I love that they play live music (which allows them to punctuate jokes) and I loved their selection of music, including “Rhapsody in Blue” and “The Man on the Flying Trapeze” and of course even the traditional circus romp (which my kids now call Afro Circus). It has such a quaint old school circus feel and the acts are terrific.
I also love that this years show was entirely different from last year’s and it was every bit as exciting and interesting. Well done Big Apple Circus. I think we may be coming back next year as well. Just in better seats.