A clowning achievement at Big Apple Circus
For its 30th anniversary, the beloved Big Apple Circus has gone back to basics. Although the company, which has set up its big tent in City Hall Plaza for its annual visit, still has some thrilling routines, the emphasis this year is on the simple circus acts that make audiences double over with laughter.
Rather than concentrating on a theme, "Celebrate!" feels more like a collection of the Big Apple's favorite routines. The show starts out a bit slowly with the clowning brothers Fumagalli and Daris doing a simple bottle-balancing act, followed by Fumagalli's sons, the Huesca Brothers, performing an impressive acrobatic routine in which one brother flipped in the air, landing with his butt on his brother's feet ("Ow," said my daughter. "No way would I let my brother do that to me.").
An animal act led by Irina Markova featured dogs dancing happily on their hind legs to Christmas carols, dressed in outfits no self-respecting canine would be caught dead in. But when a dog appeared in a dress walking a very somber-looking cat on a leash, my kids shook with laughter.
"Celebrate!" also includes an appearance by guest ringmistress Carrie Harvey, who didn't add much besides being a foil for Grandma the clown's antics (played by Matthew Pauli at the performance I saw).
The inclusion of music director Rob Slowik in a clowning routine that showed off his ability to hit a high note on his trumpet was also fun.
But it is the clowns Fumagalli and Daris who really make the kids squeal with laughter. With the simplest routine called "Will Someone Set the Table," the two brothers climb on and over each other, somersault across and off of the table, and deliver physical comedy combinations that are hilarious, even when you can see them coming a mile away.
Awe-inspiring performances dominate the second act, including a balancing routine by Virgile Peyramaure, Andrey Mantchev, and Sarah Schwarz. They look like golden statues, but their postures are gravity-defying - both beautiful and impressive. Chinese native Cong Tian's loose wire balancing act has him performing handstands, riding a unicycle while spinning discs, and hanging upside down before landing lightly on the ground.
The highlight of this year's circus is the teeter-totter acrobatics of the Kovgar Troupe. Not content to send a performer flying through the air to land on the shoulders of another (already stacked three people high) - or to land high up on a chair attached to a long pole - the troupe sends acrobats up in the air, first on two stilts, then on one.
Watching them spin and flip back through the air on the way down elicited gasps, squeals, and thunderous applause - the perfect response to the Big Apple's annual appearance.