After posting my own review, I searched cyberspace to see what others are saying about the show. The only review I recalled before writing mine was a favorable notice in a New York paper.
First, cybercritics, among whom, I must skeptically assume, there are shills galore. Either blasting Ringling because they hate the sight of animals on parade or praising Ringling because, well, you know about the Feld press department. That having been said, here they are.
Trip Advisor lends a fairly uniform impression of bitter customer disdain: “A waste of money!” “Worst circus I ever saw.” As with all sites, hard to know in every case which edition is being reviewed. Seems the Gold edition in particular has patrons cursing. But remember, these are impressions from questionable sources.
Two ticketing websites, TicketsNow and Goldstar, are both loaded with near uniform praise. Strange, on one site, participants often select “brilliant acting,” and “engaging plot” to describe their overall appreciation.
Newspapers: Unlike the Big Apple Circus, which prints many of the reviews it receives (I do not know if that also includes the bad ones, I have not checked carefully), Ringling — and I searched as hard as I could — does not print any. Could this be because it gets so few? Might the Felds, in fact, work the press for feature stories that lend the appearance of reviews rather than actual reviews?
My searching turned up notices in only two major cities:
New York: Two major dailies both turned out sunny notices. One is The New York Times, which seems to be a friend of Ringling's. It also endorsed the first ringless outing in 2006, in glaring contrast to mostly negative reactions from a number of big-city critics. Of Over the Top! Lawrence Van Gelder’s rather non-specific notice reads more like a recycled press release than the sort of review I would expect from the Times. “And for the most part,” he concludes, “Over the Top attains the summit of spectacle.”
San Francisco: The San Francisco Chronicle published a scathing review (surely one of the worst ever awarded a Feld product) by Steven Winn. And who is Winn? A long time theatre and arts critic for the paper, who issued highly upbeat reviews of at least two previous visits by Ringling to the city, in 1996 and 1999. In fact, I have found his writing to be generally even-handed. Here is a link:
Mr. Winn’s review, published the day before I posted mine, eerily echoes many of my own feelings.
What really matters, I suppose, is what the kids think, for they are the ones for whom these shrunken Ringling deconstructions are being fashioned and scripted. From a youngster writing for The San Diego Union Tribune, Cristina Martinez: “The show has something for everyone and will leave you on the edge of your seat, in awe ... I do have to say that there was almost too much to look at, and it was difficult to focus on the individual acts. At times, it seemed more like a musical than a circus...My rating: B”
And that’s entertainment.