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Tuesday, July 18, 2017

New Big Apple Circus Impresses with Web Graphics, Act Lineup Favoring Old-Line Thrills for Return to Lincoln Center ... No Sign of Paul and Michael, the Clown Care Unit, or a Tour Ahead ...


Well, what do you know, a circus is coming!   Or should I say, is returning? Any news of a circus coming or re-birthing, rebooting or rebounding  in these days of bare lots and banner lines missing in action, is good news.  The Big Apple Circus, under new ownership, is the reason. so let's have a blast of trumpets and a standing ovation even before the first act hits the ring.

New Sarasota-based  owners have been pushing an early ballyhoo that promises maybe more beef than ballet, what with outdoor high wire daredevil Nik Wallenda  topping the marquee.  Under  canvas, he will put up the precarious seven-high pyramid, which is an act fraught with danger, what with the group taking a nasty tumble last year in Sarasota that left several seriously injured.  So far, Nik is sharing top billing with the return of Grandma, the latter, I’d say, the best move these new owners have made so far.  Another reassuring move is the retention of band leader Rob Slowik to oversee music.  Of courses, what he turns out largely rides on the quality of the score he is handed ...

But what else will be the show?  Digging deeper into the Big Apple Circus website,  I found photos of other acts. among whom -- Ammed Tunziani,  photo at top, who flew with Ringling the last four years  and managed to land at least one quad, will be attempting the elusive trick at every Big Apple Performance.  This should give patrons an exciting Big Moment to look forward to. Unlike with the seven-high, audiences can enjoy the flying exploits stress-free, over the traditional net.  I stress stress free because I think circus audiences have become more accustomed to acts veering away from obvious severe danger.



Other turns include the Anastani brothers, above, with an Icarian display; juggler Gamal Garcia Tuniziani, contortionist Elayne Kramer, an African Russian Bar exhibition, and Jenny Vidbel's animals.  Her bohemian barnyard a few years back, which I was lucky to catch (remember -- a skunk and /or rodent and other oddball critters?) marked a high point in circus animal act training; and roller skaters Dandino and Luciano.  Along with Grandma, Joel Jeske to stir up additional giggles and guffaws. To be directed by Mark Lonegran, who staged last year’s Grand Tour.

Will the seven-high make a bigger or smaller impact in so small a setting? The act was born in the late 1940s, when circus shows commanded multiple rings and thousands of seats.   I saw it as a kid on the Polack show, to this day the most memorable moment in my circus-going life.  But those were different times.


Given the scope and athletic daring-do of outdoor reality TV, somehow I don't see the seven-high having the same impact as in did in days gone by.   When the Felds presented the seven high, they rigged it over an end ring, hardly a statement of pride or stature.  The night I attended the show, act was a no-show, due to a recent mishap.

We are about to witness a difficult transition.  New owners pledged to continue Big Apple Circus traditions established by Paul and Michael, but I see modest evidence of  this. Website has a "Giving Back to the Community" list of free charitable shows, etc, though no mention of the Clown Care Unit.  Nonetheless, what they have done so far looks promising.  “New York to the core,” proclaims new promo and ad copy.   Let’s hope the tour -- or one-date stand -- ahead will be a grander one.

Cry, Clown, Cry: In a  recent,very moving issue of Circus Report, two bitter-sweet accounts, one by fan Alex Smith from Providence,  the other by former Ringling clown Andrew Rose, at Nasseau, of watching the last Ringling performances.  Had I been there to see one of them, I might have cried all the way through.   Ringling-Barnum encapsulates so much American circus history!  I still say it shouldn’t have happened ... Anybody know how well the Melha Shrine did this year when they brought back the elephants?  Did the missing crowds who complained of their absence actually return?  I google the question, and come up with nothing.
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END RINGERS: Have I got some goodies:  Blood bath at New England Center for Circus Arts: Seems that a few professors have quit, some students have walked, over recent firing of co-founders, twin sisters Elsie Smith and Serenity Smith Forchion.  Ugly scene only getting uglier.  My own lingering questions remain: Whatever comes out of this all, will this school or any other school in this country EVER produce top-flight circus acts? Pardon my indiscretion ... Kenneth Feld’s great love for the elephants included his own elephant compound, all along, I suspected, mainly a PR ploy to counter PETA and other animal groups forcing him into courtrooms.  Now there's word that it’s probably going to be phased out, that some elephants may be up for sale.  Are you surprised? ... .... America's got circus, too!  Hey, Mr. Producer:  How about booking a star turn off America's Got Talent?   Circus action fairly dominated the first half hour of a recent special featuring the judges favorite acts from the season so far.  Millions of Americans watch this show.  Knock!  Knock!  Anybody get my drift?  Some hints ...




Friday, July 07, 2017

A Sneak Peek at the Hugh Jackman Barnum Movie, Due Out in December

 
The new movie on Barnum's life, starring Hugh Jackman, is now offering a You Tube trailer.

I've watched it twice, and don't know exactly what to think.  Some first impressions:

Jackman cuts a dashing figure.

The settings look historically very authentic.  To me, the most promising sign.

Not so promising:  A predominant image of a ring filled with about as diverse a tribe of human characters as you will find anywhere, well, in  San Francisco.  The impression is more of a sideshow than a circus.  With this comes what may be the main theme in spoken words: We are all different.

Ah yes, different.  And just in time for the next diversity breakthrough revolution in America's self-creation mania.

An upbeat soulful song will no doubt appeal to younger ears.   My more mature ears found it generically engaging, although it struck me as being out of place in the period setting, as was the spectacle of an aerialist swooping down from above, looking more like Cirque du Disney than Barnum & Bailey.  

But then, this is to be a movie musical,  and based on what I saw ....  The VERDICT, Please!

I have no idea.

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

MIDWAY FLASH! ... MIDWAY FLASH! ... Carson & Barnes Circus Heading Back to Hugo ... Summer Dates Shuttered ... Fall Tour Promised ...


From the show's Facebook: "For unseen circumstances with additional financial burdens,we have come to the difficult decision to bring the show off the road for the remaining summer months."

Last summer dates to be played are at Williamsburg, PA on July 10th. 

Traditional Circus Has a Friend In America's Got Talent ... TV Hit Delivers the Magic to Millions


Other night, I tuned in to America’s Got Talent, and was tickled to discover one remarkably accomplished performer  – a dog names Hero — nearing the end of what  I imagined to have been a marvelous performance.    Talk about novelty.  Hero and trainer Sara Carson interacted in the most unexpected ways.  That’s the wonder of circus discovery.

And then came a shocking display of judging indifference.   Two of the four judges, Mel and Howie, adamantly refused to be impressed!

What?  Were they kidding?  Pre-scripted?   I could not believe my eyes.

Neither could Simon Cowell, astonished and not a little angry.  He had loved the act as much as did the audience, as much as did I. 


So distraught over the two dissenters, whose thumbs down eliminated the act, Simon  huffed and puffed up onto the stage, as if willfully defying ground rules,  joined Hero and Sara, and made a direct appeal to the audience for a show of support, which it delivered in cheering waves.  Then he pleaded  with Howie and Mel to reverse their votes.  Mel held firm.  Howie reversed his, thus allowing Hero through to the next phase!  And you'd thought Simon had just parted the red sea. 


Simon is not the most famous entertainment critic in the world for nothing.

I love this show, even though I only ever see parts of it, and I love these particular judges, who generally, in the face of circus action, display such embracing enthusiasm.  They are Howie Mandel, Mel B, Heidi Klum, and Simon   No Montreal airs compete on this program.  No navel-gazing or artsy posturing of the sort that we saw far too much of on the ill-fated Celebrity Circus from NBC, a few years back.  Pandering, really fawning, to the Cirque du Soleil stye of act, the humdrum Celebrity lasted through but five dreary episodes. 

In fact, the America's Got Talent judges can sometimes be so taken by what many of us might consider a staple act, that I am left to wonder how many circuses any of them  have seen in recent times.



Never you mind, they are helping to remind Americans why we still go to circus shows.

And Simon leads the way.   Although, he has issues with clowns, a fearful aversion he openly revealed last season.  Which may make the producers, of whom he is one,  more open  — and comedic characters more challenged to deliver on — quirky variations on clowning, sans traditional makeup and floppy shoes.




America's Got Talent  reaches millions and so perhaps this show is doing more to keep alive a vibrant impression of circus than any other venue out there.  When the young people taking up circus arts in our nation’s classrooms watch the show, I hope they are inspired to respect the primal power of the big top basics.  After all, a trick is a trick is a trick.

Oh, what a night it was.  Praise the dog and damn those judges!