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This article by Simon Saltzman was prepared for the November 21,
2001 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
In New York: `Big Top Doo-Wop’
The circus, for all intents and purposes, comes with
one ring or three. The three-ring circus, principally the domain of
Ringling Bros. Barnum and Bailey, is an American creation designed
to overwhelm us with more thrills, chills, and spectacle than the
eye can accommodate. The one-ring circus is derived from a more
European tradition, in which one act at a time commands our attention.
It is from the latter, less pretentious, tradition that New York’s
own Big Apple Circus takes its cue. With this in mind, you may find
the 24th edition entirely satisfying. Yet if you are a demanding sort
who expects to see many extraordinary acts performing in a slick and
polished presentation, you may be disappointed. My own reaction was
of seeing a pleasant display of modest diversions enhanced by freshly
popped corn and hotdogs, and the proximity of the real live
This year’s theme — a salute to the 1950s — seems less an
imaginatively conceived and executed package for children of all ages,
than a way to amuse obliging parents. As conceived by Michael
and directed by Michel Barette, the parade of icons like Roy Rodgers,
Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly, and the sight of black leather jackets,
poodle skirts, and Hula Hoops may garnish the clowning a bit. But
none of the colorful costumes (by Mirena Rada) or trappings (by Dan
Kuchar) help the rather lame comedy attached to memories of TV’s The
Ed Sullivan Show and "This Is Your Life."
If a little jitterbugging (with appropriately frenetic
choreography by Lisa LeAnn Dalton) in a fanciful soda shop goes a
long way, so too do the fumbling attempts by star clown Grandma (Barry
Lubin) to master a moving exercise treadmill. Grandma, in basic garish
get-up and pearls, wanders amiably in and out of the action. She gets
able assist in the clowning from Tiffany Riley and warm-up clown Dick
Monday, who got a laugh out of me when he tap danced on a large sheet
of bubble wrap.
The Olate Family’s Dogs, were a perky opening act. The assortment
of pooches were cute and responsive enough as they jumped through
hoops, slid down slides and walked on their hind legs. Comely
Katja Schumann, with Katherine Schumann Binder, Max Binder, Sasha
Nevidonski rode their four cantering white steeds with elegance and
expertise. Their graceful act led to the more zany acrobatic
of Carlos and Susanne Svenson, as a pair of tossed-about tourists.
An Australian cyclist, who babbles incessantly in a French accent,
gets the biggest applause riding a miniature bike through a flaming
hoop. Expectedly, the most exciting act is The (4) Jokers, a flying
trapeze act notable for their long-distance mid-air somersaults and
for working directly over our heads.
No less effective was the spinning aerial virtuosity of graceful pair
Regina Dobrovitskaya and Valdis Yanovskis. While the tumbling pep
team — The Mairov Troupe — was rousing, it was not
unique in any way.
It was juggler Emile Carey who had me mesmerized with his precision
and dexterity with dozens of small rubber balls. Just as the company,
with an emphasis on the Big Apple Band, reminds us in the finale that
"Rock ‘n Roll is Here to Stay," I’d like to think, despite
this season’s less than awesome, show, the Big Apple Circus will
with us always. Two stars. Maybe you should have stayed home.
— Simon Saltzman
Center, 62nd Street and Amsterdam Avenue, New York, 212-721-6500.
"Big Top Doo-Wop." $12 to $65. Runs to January 6.
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