Big Apple Circus Returns Full of Surprises As It Presents Germany’s’ Beloved Roncalli Circus.
By: Ellis Nassour
November 27, 2023: For its 46th Anniversary season at Lincoln Center (Damrosch Park), the home-grown Big Apple Circus has made a savvy move. In an effort to be fresh and expand their horizons to bring in different types of artists, BAC has joined up with Germany’s beloved Circus-Theater Roncalli, which truly lives up to its name, for Journey to the Rainbow. playing through January 1.
There’s plenty of theater and plenty of circus – and it’s (really) all-new. Roncalli brought over 30 artists and a music director and shipped costumes and assets over in two huge containers. It’s a fun and eye-popping show, and under the heated BAC heated tent there are no bad seats – yes, ringside is the best, but …
“Ever since Andy Warhol said this was the kind of circus New Yorkers would love, we’ve wanted to bring Circus-Theater Roncalli to America,” states founder/owner Bernhard Paul. “We’re excited to realize our dream with this magical production that tells the story of our founding and celebrates the joy and wonder of classic circus.”
BAC CEO Marty LaSalle adds. “We promise a jaw-dropping extravaganza of imaginative acts, spectacularly staged, and wondrous spectacles in the ring and high up into the tent that give a fresh take on classical circus traditions.”
The show opens with Noel Aguilar juggling batons, Ping-Pong balls, straw hats, and Frisbees with ferocious speed. Not many are as flexible, or as funny as Andrey Romanovsky, winner of numerous awards on European stages, who can fold himself like laundry. You’ll be amazed at his dexterity with a steel stovepipe. Among multiple awards across the globe, he captured the Bronze Clown Award at Monte Carlo’s New Generation Festival.
Following to amaze and awe are two duos: High-Tension, with Julian Kaiser and Christoph Gobet on trapeze, where the specialty is to catch each other only with their legs; and Another Love, where Iryna Galenchyk and Vladyslav Drobinko, high up under the circus dome circle around each other on trapeze, attract each other, fall in love, get lost, and find each other again.
Circus fans are used to umpteen daredevils on roarin’ motorcycles defying gravity in the Cage of Death. Brazilian Ademir Augusto is no less a daredevil on bicycle – one he daringly peddles around a wooden cage open at the bottom and soaring into the tent dome. It’s no less exciting.
Emma Philips proudly proclaims to be the only artist in the Western world to master Chinese-style foot juggling. In her unique act, she combines Chinese tradition with dance and her love of the vaudeville prone on a platform juggling ornate umbrellas and varied household items with one leg, and, with the strength of Atlas or Hercules, daringly spins a large table with the other.
If you aren’t breathless and can still muster awe and applause, meet handsome Geoffrey Berhault on the slick, taunt double tightwire. At Paris’ 35th Festival de Cirque de Demain, he won the Innovation Prize balancing, dancing, jumping, and doing flips on two 4-inch crossing ropes. Hungary’s Trio Confido found the pot of gold on their journey to the rainbow. As statues bathed in gold they come to life in a dazzling display of acrobatics and body control. Five exceptional Russian champion acrobats, led by Nikolay Kirichenko, showcase amazing trust, strength, and balance as they fly through the air.
Roncalli, like most US-based circuses, no longer presents animal acts, but it appears an exemption has been granted for the show at Lincoln Center. In rather an anxious moment, a fearless trainer introduces three supposedly trained but uncaged and recklessly untethered polar bears. Hear them roar!
A highlight of the show is a memorably-funny ensemble of European and Mexican clowns to delight children of all ages: Oriolo (Oriol Boaxader), one of Spain’s most popular; Paquin Jr. & Angelo, a whiteface Pierrot clown; Italy’s father-daughter Paolo Carillon and Nox; and young, very personable French acrobat/clown Devlin Bogino, born into one of the great Italian-French circus families, often stealing his way through routine after routine.
There’s a tip of the hat to home-grown talent with a stunningly attractive ensemble of seven Broadway dancers, often wearing stunningly attractive costumes: Lexy Bittner, Lindsey Carroll, Reagan Davidson, Amanda Magee, Grace Paloma, Santos Sautter, and Olivia Tarchick. The Marie Antoinette send-up is not only hilarious, but also costumed with a wink and nod to Ziegfeld Follies’ showgirls.
Directing Journey to the Rainbow is Patrick Philadelphia, Roncalli Company Group CEO. Conducting the eight-piece band is Roncalli’s longtime music director Georg Pommer, who also composed the score. Choreography is by Kim Cravan and Ron Todorwski. The costumer is sadly uncredited.
Be sure to visit the memorabilia and costume-filled BAC-Roncalli Museum before or after the show (free). In the concession lobby, there are plenty of midway culinary classics: cotton candy, popcorn, hot dogs, and sodas – and a bar. Before the show and during intermission you will be treated to very elegant restrooms!
Big Apple Circus presents Circus-Theater Roncalli’s Journey to the Rainbow is produced by Michael Cohl, S2BN Entertainment; Arny Granat, CEO, Grand Slam Productions; Marty LaSalle, BAC CEO; and Nik Wallenda of the renowned Flying Wallendas.
Tickets are available at the box office off the Plaza at Lincoln Center and at www.bigapplecircus.com. Prices range from $19.95 – $89.95 ringside, plus $4.95 fee. VIP packages available, from $130, plus $7.95 fee [seats within first two rows; meet & greet with performers (weekends and holiday shows); VIP Lounge, featuring sodas, finger foods. and confections; variety pack of BAC merchandise (redeemable in lounge before the show); and express lane into tent.]