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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

The Big Apple Circus Big Top Doo-Wop Damrosch Park,


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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