Friday, February 26, 2010

Out of the Past: Midway 'Round the World: Have the Russians Refound Their Circus Groove? ... St. Pete Puts Shakespeare Over Sawdust to Packed Houses

Mammoth elephants and auto-driving bears cavort with acrobats in a most unusual new circus bearing a theme based on the comedies of William Shakespeare. Cast of 58. Bring it on, Russia!

Don't give up on those revolutionary Russians, the inventively deft souls who came of age after the revolution of 1917 and redefined circus art by incorporating shades of ballet and mini narratives into their acts. The same souls who mesmerized American audiences when they came west in 1963 and 1967.

Now comes, and maybe with it the return of dominant Soviet creativity, "The Mystery of the Giant Elephants." World premiering at the famed St. Petersburg circus building, now called Bolshoi State Circus. How I love that preciously quaint old arena complete with museum one or two floors up.

This is the arena built in 1878 by noted Italian impresario Gaetano Ciniselli, who ran the nation's most popular and acclaimed circus shows before the Bolsheviks took over.

"Mystery" opened on February 12, and is packing 'em in, says director Alexander Chervotkin, noting early worries among the staff that "a conservative audience would not understand or appreciate the concept."

So far, it's an artful Russian smash. Performances on tap through July 30, then a tour through Russia and the CIS (the old Soviet states). After that? Delighted with the boffo reception, they are not ruling out a tour to Europe or the U.S. Oakland, California, too, please.

Go, dude, go!

First posted February 26, 2010

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