The Big Apple Circus’s Legendarium Time Travels to Era of Big Top Shows
By: Ellis Nassour
New York’s homegrown, not-for-profit Big Apple Circus is presenting its 35th season with the premiere of Legendarium, through January 13 in their colorful Big Top at Lincoln Center. This edition captures the family fun, excitement, and thrills you expect with bumbling clowns, daredevils, acrobats, jugglers, contortionists, majestic horses, playful pups, and rousing music from a live band. But, there’s more!
In addition to sawdust, cotton candy, and hot dogs slathered with mustard and relish, there’s time travel. Legendarium takes audiences back to the nostalgic era when tented shows crisscrossed the country filling children with wonder and joy – and, no doubt, a few scares from that daring young man on the flying trapeze.
"The Big Apple Circus is a beloved institution," says artistic director Guillaume Dufresno, a former Big Apple Circus aerialist. "It’s a whimsical marriage of traditional theater and keeper of the flame of classical circus. My goal’s been to push the envelope, to go gently into new territory, but [keep the] tradition relevant."
While pushing the envelope, Dufresnoy hasn’t forgotten the style and substance of the past: jawdropping daredevils, colorful costumes, and performers whose talent earn thunderous applause. And the music’s live – from Big Apple’s very own band.
Veteran, debonair ringmaster John Kennedy Kane introduces artists from nine countries including the U.S. There’s Big Apple perennial favorite Jenny Vidbel putting horses, cuddly white dwarf horses, and a wild and wooly set of rescued dogs through their paces. Dutch Emilie and Menno van Dyke combine two unlikely skills you have to see to believe: the passion of the tango and flawless juggling.
Russia’s Katerina is a whirling dervish soaring up into the Big Top in aerial silks. France’s award-winning international circus star Daniel Cyr spirals and spins himself almost to oblivion [well, close to it] using his self-invented gigantic steel hoop, which in spite of Cyr’s prowess seems to have a mind of its own.
But what’s a modern day circus without Chinese acrobats, however, unless you’ve walked the Great Wall recently, you haven’t experienced anything like the Dalian Acrobatic Troupe, an outstanding ensemble of young women who do impeccable super-synchronized stunts on bicycles. Don’t try what they do on the street where you live! Another China native, Zhang Fan, achieves amazing feats [pun intended] of impossible balance on a swaying slack wire.
Now, bring in the clowns. They’re the homegrown Acrobuffos, husband and wife Seth and Christina, who elicit laughter with slapstick comedy which almost always includes lucky folks in the audiences. "Don’t pick me," they scream. "Pick him!"
Every edition of Big Apple is famous for the echoes of memories it brings — and for a very special act that’s the cat’s meow. This edition has two such unforgettable performances: Russia’s Desire of Flight duo, Valeriy and Malvina, who defy gravity in soaring stunts on aerial straps; and 20-year-old Argentine beauty Elayne Kramer, a sixth-generation circus performer and contortionist with a backbone flexible as an archer’s bow! And you’ll be amazed at how she uses this flexibility and her bow!
From the US, the Acrobuffos, the husband-and-wife clown team, bring gales of laughter with their slapstick comedy.
Tony winner and Theatre Hall of Fame member John Lee Beatty is set designer, and stage, film, and dance’s Mirena Rada did the costumes. The rousing band is under the baton of Rob Slowik.
The Big Apple’s tent is equipped for all-season comfort. While some seats, like those ringside, are better than others, no seat is more than 50 feet from the performers. With prices held down, dollar-for-dollar, Big Apple is one of the best family entertainment bargains.
Admission for Legendarium starts at $25 [general admission, stadium bleachers -$135 [premium ringside]. Family memberships begin at $40pp. Pre-show enjoy the heated lounge with VIP option [$175], rest rooms, entertainment, and refreshments. Purchase tickets online at www.bigapplecircus.org or by calling CenterCharge, (888) 541-3750; or, to save on service charges of $8 per ticket, at the Big Apple Circus box office. For group parties, inquiries about wheelchair-accessible seating, and additional information, call (800) 922-3772.