Big Apple Circus
nytheatre.com review by Maggie Cino
November 3, 2005
Big Apple Circus’s latest effort, Grandma Goes to Hollywood, offers its audience the astoundingly expected. The Big Apple performers are some of the best in the business, so all the acts are executed skillfully. And even if there are exceptions (I saw two unfortunate performers having a rough night) still, the show is live, the skills are difficult, and no matter how much you practice, part of the magic is that something could go awry. But the successes rhythmically meet expectations, as dogs jump through hoops, jugglers keep pins in the air, trapeze artists stay aloft. This year’s production has a lot of skill, but not a lot of drama.
The Big Apple Circus is a complex organization. It is much more traditional than Cirque du Soliel, but far smaller than Ringling Brothers and a nonprofit to boot. They have a number of outreach programs such as the Clown Care Unit, which visits hospital pediatric wards; and Circus of the Senses, a program created to bring circus to children who are visually or aurally impaired. And each year they put on a one-ring circus, using traditional circus arts in a theatrical way.
The movies are a surprising theme for the most indisputable of the live arts to explore, but Big Apple succeeds in making them three-dimensional. Grandma Goes to Hollywood sets out to hit every movie trope, with boys in caps with clapboards and movie cameras, Harry Potter and Marilyn Monroe, and homages to Star Wars and Charlie Chaplin, to name just a few. Grandma the Clown comes out as Dorothy to introduce a dog act with an Emerald City theme. The show hits every circus trope as well, with equestrians, Chinese acrobats, ventriloquists, clowns, jugglers, and of course, the flying trapeze finale. It is unlikely that any movie-history buff or classical circus fan would be disappointed.
The two most memorable acts are the hand-standing contortions of Andrey Mantehev and Virgile Peyramaure, and the sweet Christmas morning scene with Christian Atayde Stoinev and his dog Scooby. Peyramaure created the counterbalancing act with another partner, and executes the feats of flexibility and strength with arresting ease. Stoinev is charming in his holiday scene, combining acrobatics with dog wrangling in a simple but compelling way.
Grandma Goes to Hollywood is a good, thorough, entertaining effort. All the performers are high quality, and Big Apple continues to be an important bridge between traditional and new circus. But in this year’s production, the theme of the show seems like an excuse to put new costumes on old acts and dazzle in predictable ways.