Ringling is now in New York, feted with a welcome notice from the The New York Times, profiled in depth about its recent court appearances and high-profit margins despite the down times. This new edition I find intriguing, what with the big elephant escape act, more magic, and lots of other circusy stuff ... You can, if you’re lucky, grab a five dollar ticket with a special coupon, and, once inside, spend the money you saved on the sky-high concession prices. But good news! According to Big Show boss, Kenneth Feld, the concession charges are the same as last year. Oh, boy, I can still nab a designer snow cone for $12.00. Does this not demonstrate the redemptive power of popcorn and lemonade on even our mightiest midway? ... “We are the Wall Mart of the entertainment business, affordable to everyone,” states Mr. Feld. For everyone, I might add, who brings their own snow cone machine, thank you. ... He’s one shrewd operator, and I’m thinking this might be a good year for Big Bertha ... Even VIP fees for Cirque du Soleil in Vegas, according to the Times, “are, unthinkably, being discounted.” Indeed, the CDS website offers 25% discounts to Mystere, Ka, and Love.
Also, the season underway might be a fine year for John and Brigitte Pugh, whose ever-changing show title still includes the word “Cole.” They’ve revamped their website into a fresh buzz, and they're talking up their 125 year history with pride. And these two sawdust souls hardly look as if they have any intention of walking away soon. What’s best, they’ve got Columbia's Toprasta Troupe performing the 7-high pyramid walk on the high wire, along with a neat assortment of features from camels to cannons ... Pugh waxes high still on monitoring crowd reactions: “In addition to conducting formal surveys, John observes how people react to individual acts, and he listens to comments made by circus goers as they exit the tent following the show’s conclusion.” ...
Out of the past: Once there was an opening night for Barnum & Bailey’s revolutionary first three-ring opus, back at Madison Square Garden in 1881, and it was met with a mixture of awe, disorientation and a sense of inevitability. The Bandwagon’s Fred D. Pfennig III, in the current issue, reprints two reviews, one a virtual puff piece from the New York Clipper, the other a real review from the New York Dramatic News. Began the scribe, “At last Mr. Barnum’s name is attached to the greatest show on earth in reality as well as upon paper.” But this discriminating critic did not shy away from airing acute reservations, such as a broadside against talking joeys. “There was a long line of clowns stretched through Monday evening, and they were the best we ever saw, probably for a reason that we could not hear a solitary word that they said.” He tossed kudos to one of the jesters for having dressed up as a roustabout and “getting into the way of the others when they were spreading and taking up the carpets ... This is the first new thing in clowns that has been introduced since circuses were first invented.”
All things in time wear out and need rethinking. They witnessed it then, and we are witnessing it now. It’s a new season, and Carson & Barnes is headed for California in their new one-ring setup. Who knows what unexpected excitement may right now be coming our way.