“All the world’s a stage”, so said Shakespeare. But this season in New York City, all the world’s a circus. Amidst the multitude of goings on for children, there are a couple of new and revised circus shows of note.
In “Play On”, the Big Apple Circus show Glen Heroy, the clown, struts his way through the audience provoking some seemingly angry encounters; he’s neither the tamest nor sweetest of clowns. Regardless, that never fazed Isabel. The otherwise trepidatious 3½-year-old, made sure to wave and exchange hellos with him.
This, the company’s 31st edition, includes snippets of Fosse-like choreography, a Chaplinesque clown (Mark Gindick) who gets poured on in someone else’s version of “Singing in the Rain”, and a dog act billed as “Luciano Anastasini and His Pound Puppies”. The dogs imitate some of the antics from Siegfried and Roy. These are daredevil routines for the faint of heart.
As directed by Steve Smith, some of the acts are longer than necessary while others miss their mark, such as “Urning a Living”, in which the juggler, Guiming Meng, spins enormous pieces of traditional-looking Chinese pottery across his head and shoulders. Scenes of the merely uncomfortable however, are forgotten in the midst of more fascinating moments: midair somersaults that seem to go on endlessly, and feet that race trippingly across a tight rope are some of the awesome spectacles in this show for children – and their escorts.
But, if you’re chasing after a Christmas show with a lot more spectacle, Cirque du Soleil’s “Wintuk” is certainly much bigger with its cast of 60 performers, 400+ different costumes and over a million paper snowflakes that spew into the audience at the finale. This year’s production, revamped since its premiere in 2007 when it received unanimously negative reviews, is much improved.
Eye-popping production elements include Julie Taymor-like gigantic white birds with delicate long legs, singing lampposts and towering ice monsters manipulated by humans who look like mere specs by comparison.
Unlike other Cirque du Soleil productions, where the language is invented, the characters of “Wintuk” speak and sing in English, although only a line or two are clearly audible. That is all that is needed really, since the narrative is minimal at best.
As directed by Fernand Rainville, the entertainment, aimed at 10-year-olds and younger, sustains the non-stop activity that’s matched only by the dizzying crowds at Madison Square Garden’s WaMu Theater where it’s staged. Still, the production is fun-at-heart with some acrobatic performances that achieve perfection.
Grand or petit, this Christmas there’s a circus for the kid in us all.
By: Isa Goldberg
The Big Apple CIrcus
Lincoln Center/Damrosch Park 67nd Street between Columbus and Amsterdam Avenue…thru January 18, 2009
WaMu Theater at Madison Square Garden…thru January 4, 2009