Clown for a New Day

Clown for a New Day
Dagwood might make it in today's emasculated circus

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Kelly Miller’s Lean Lineup Offers Pleasing Acts, Good Music and Production Reach, But Suffers Weak Direction and Strained Comedy Antics

Holiday Look Backs, this from 2010

Circus Review: Kelly Miller Circus

Brewster, New York
June 16, 4:30 PM

Because a Ringling produced it, naturally, some of us will wonder, how good might it be? The welcome news here is that in promising evidence from John Ringling North II are some admirable producing inclinations, though for the most part they exceed the less than stellar results brought to bear.

This year’s respectable opus is particularly shy on air power — not so unusual for a circus in the modern era — all except for a gal from Aussie named Nikita who turns in a terrific single trap workout, keeping us well engaged with breathless swings, drops and angular twists that mark her vigorous attack. She has the reckless air that we see too little of these days. Well, she can afford to: you’ve got to overlook a very conspicuous mechanic (it could have been subtler), but then again, most circus crowds today are routinely putting up with these tell tale signs of contemporary cowardice. That said, she’s an asset, and a valid “first time in America” import from North.

Down dishing loads of charm over the sawdust is the very young Adrian Poema, Jr., a kid of true star power who captures the ring instantly and never loses our amused attention. He gives his family’s reasonably good risley display world class pizzaz, which makes him something of a wasted asset; why this perky crowd pleaser was not more comprehensively integrated into the entire program to maximize his and its impact is indicative of an overall laxity in direction.

Other on-the-ground pleasures number a charming camel “silk road” caravan managed by Mike and Carolyn Rice and exotically embellished with dancing gals, all of which casts a certain little spell; and there's Armando Loyal’s gracious handling of three nicely talented elephants, each topped by a North Starlet. Roxie Montana presents a fairly routine dog and pony display, routine until a doggie dude bolts off a pedestal back onto a cantering pony to resume his ride round the ring. Great bit. Trouble is, the act on balance is just too similar to the one hosted earlier by Natalie Cainan, so that we get a feeling of being routed in reverse rather than forward. Been there done that is not the feeling you want at a circus show

In more fundamental matters, act transitions are sloppy; pacing is vague, and the show seems oddly structured. It should be noted that opening and closing segments handled, respectively, by Casey McCoy with tigers and Brian LaPalme with fire, were both no-shows at the Brewster matinee.

Had the missing book ends been there, this review might read slightly differently. Still, it’s a show in need of less redundancy and a more cohesive pulse. North will have to import a sharper directorial hand if he wishes to matriculate beyond Oklahoma ordinary. And he will certainly have to break some nasty Hugo habits that dog the performance, such as allowing a fellow to treat a routine Peterson Peanut pitch as a matter of life and death, staging a mock one minute count down while exhorting the crowd to buy buy buy -- before it's too late!!!! About as subtle as a diesel truck blasting through an afternoon tea picnic, by far the most offensive example of promotional hysteria I’ve yet witnessed.

To the company’s credit, they’ve spared the ring — or did the day I saw the show — a carnival invasion at intermission. Animal rides are kept outside the tent.

A first half production closer themed around fifties culture and music creates a charming context for a series of so-so acts, thanks to on-point scoring favoring rock and roll from the era, and to the number’s zany highpoint, rolla bolla artist Fridman Torales mimicking Elvis Pressley to the hilt. But the hula hoop segment is fairly dreary, and clowns Steve Copeland and Ryan Combs work a strained waiter routine, fighting over a female patron. Their youthfully energetic work, bearing clearly the Feld school of clowning, which places intense acrobatics over character, is so slapstick heavy that it can wear thin fast. Alas, they proved a minor disappointment at this show.

Copeland and Combs apparently possess the brains for comedic invention away from repetitive mug slaps, much more of which would be welcome here. They work a delightfully creative mini clown walkaround, and at least one item across their café table shenanigans is laugh-out-loud funny. One guy stuffs the other’s mouth with a wash cloth, and the silenced mouth stoops down to slavishly wipe the table clean. Very funny stuff. They need more of this, less of the other. Nor was their exterminator gag, in theory a fine idea, amply mined

Another moderate pleasure is juggler Rual Olivares, who wins audience affection with a surprisingly diversified repertoire and his naturally warm connection to a crowd. He’s a paunchy fellow who could bolster his charisma by shedding say half his poundage. Then again, the ordinary guy look he sports, intended or not, may work in his favor.

Best of the production enhancements by far is the two person musical department of Captain Lucky Eddie Straeffer and Vickie Straeffer, he on drums, she at the electronic/CD board. They follow the show with effective relevance every act of the way, and they deserve a better sound system delivery. At times they make things sound as if there’s a small live band inside the tent.

Cleanly, classical attired ringmaster John moss has too many duties (sponsor acknowledgments to web sitting) to cut any kind of a consistent persona, and his exchanges with the performers seem more gratuitous than entertaining. Also listed as the director, clearly he does not run a tight ship.

Before a responsive near full house in Brewster, Kelly Miller delivered a good enough show for the friendly ticket prices ($14 general adult admission). However, if the producer bearing the most famous name in American circus history really wishes to prove his Ringling blood, he’s got his work cut out for him. It’s not an easy business. At the moment, having notably lasted four seasons under the big top, the nephew of legendary John Ringling North is maybe half way there. Well out of Baraboo, but far from Sarasota.

Overall rating (out of four stars tops): 2-1/2 stars

[photo from Rick Purdue at www.flickr.com/photos/partridgeroad/4546065484/]

6.22.10

12 comments:

Casey McCoy Cainan said...

Not as bad as I expected. And now you have seen the show, so it is a valid opinion. I feel that "responsive" to describe the audience that day was a down play. I seem to remember the crowd being more than thrilled with the show there. I will preemptively address the lack of tigers and fire eater. No fire in NY State. And the lot was such that it was impossible to get the tigers up to the tent (lucky you, only date they have missed this year)I honestly figured, when and if you ever saw this show, we'd warrant a 3 star, but 2 and a half is within the realm of that particular date.

Rick Purdue said...

Please note that the original of the Adrian Poema, Jr., photo can be found at www.flickr.com/photos/partridgeroad/4546065484/. Thanks -- Rick Purdue

Anonymous said...

I'm the son of John Moss.You may remember me from my last comment.(I'm extremely sorry for the offensive language I used).I would like to point out that since you never have been a trapeze artist that you had no right to critize her,especially using the term "coward".Also,the reason Brian LaPalme and Casey Mcoy were "no shows" was because of the complications the New York inspector put us through that day.My father does not run a "non-tight ship".I think this great show is structured perfectly and that the hula hoop act is rather exciting.

Anonymous said...

In 2010 a saftey line in no way detracts from the perfomance of the aerial act be it trapeze or cloudswing in the event of the artist falling they do not hit the ground and can get back up again for the next show. Which, forgive me if I am wrong, isn't it about entertainment?

Or would you prefer the career ending hideous injuries of old??

Anonymous said...

Hello David,
Thanks for posting your review of Kelly-Miller. It's refreshing to read a review that's not all sunshine. I'm 62 yrs old now and started my working career with mud shows in the 60's. Although that only lasted 4 yrs I've continued to maintain an avid interest. The biggest dissapointment to me has been the decline in quality of many of the shows. Not necessarilly the talent, but the production, lighting, and music. I often witness an act that could do an excellent 4 minute production, but instead stretches it to 6 or 7 minutes to fill up time, and ends up boring the audience. I would rather see a shorter show, with better lighting and music. Cut out some of the fluff acts if you need the money to pay for it. And finally, if the audience is not showing their enthusiasm don't blame it on them. Take ownership. You failed to entertain...
My flame suit is on.

Ken

Showbiz David said...

Casey, "responsive" was not intended to minimize a strong impact. I was trying to impart that the show seemed to click with the audience. I was delighted to be able to both see the show with a large crowd, for I always factor in audience response, AND not in the mud, which I had feared, nor in the rain, which was predicted. Very sorry not to have seen your act.

Anonymous said...

David, I agree! This show has some wonderful talent but the overall production lacks pizazz. It could be so much more exciting.Production wise it starts weak and goes downhill from there.

Anonymous said...

MR DAVE, WAS SO DISAPOINTED IN YOUR REVIEW OF KELLY MILLER CIRCUS.AS YOU KNOW BY THE OTHER COMMENTS THE SHOW YOU CAME TO IN BREWSTER WAS NOT THE COMPLETE SHOW BY ANY MEANS DUE TO THE LAWS OF NY STATEAND ALSO SOME ILLNES AND INJURIES.I AM WRITING ON BEHALF OF MY FAMILY THE POEMA RISLEY ACT SO SORRY YOU DIDN'T GET TO SEE THE WHOLE ACT AS IT SHOULD BE,MY HUSBAND JUST RETURNED BACK TO WORK 2DAYS PRIOR AFTER HE TORE HIS MINISCUS IN HIS KNEE AND MY DAUGHTER WAS MISSING DUE TO ASTMA. ON THE OTHER HAND THANKS FOR THE COMPLEMENTS ON MY SONS PERFORMANCE. WE HAVE TRAINED OUR KIDS TO BE EQUILY TALENTED IN ALL THEIR SKILLS AS PERFORMERS.HOPE TO SEE YOU AGAIN AT THE SHOW SO YOU CAN GET A COMPLETE VEIW OF THIS GREAT LITTLE SHOW WITH THE BIGEST HEART I HAVE EVER SEEN.ON BEHALF OF MY FELLOW PERFORMERS IHAVE TO SAY I HAVE BEEN ON ALOT OF SHOWS IN MY LIFE BUT NEVER ON A SEASON THIS LONG AND WE ARE ONLY HALF WAY THROUGH AND FROM THE CREW ,PERFORMERS,AND THE ANIMALS FROM THE OPENING DAY TILL NOW THE SHOW HAS NEVER LOST IT'S SPARK.THIS SHOW IS FULL OF HARD WORKING AND TALENTED PEOPLE AND I HAVE YET TO SEE THE PUPLIC LEAVE UNPLEASED.
SINCERLY
NELLIE HANNEFORD

Showbiz David said...

Dear Nellie, thanks for your comments, and I feel your frustration. I sensed something missing from the risely (having seen some of it on a you tube), but did not know why.
A review is a snapshot in time, reflecting what is seen at the time. So your famous family name is part of the Poema act! No wonder the kid has star power.
As you will see when I post my review of Illuscination, I was also reflecting what I saw over there, same as I was reporting what I saw at Brewster. Thus, some may take offense to what I say about a particular Ringling act or two. 2-1/2 stars is respectable. I wish your very talented family a speedy recovery. And I am happy to know more about the high spirits of the Kelly Miller troupe.

Anonymous said...

So this review is based on a show where the tiger and fire acts were cut and the Poema act wasn't its full production? That hardly seems fair. I agree with some aspects of the review but I feel the reviewer has missed a large part of the show. On top that, I don't think the size of Raul Olivares is significant and definitely not worth mentioning. I took my child to this show a couple of months ago and was pleased to see a safety line attached to the trapeze artist. Death wasn't really a conversation I wanted to have with my son that night.

Anonymous said...

I have never heard so many alibi's, followed by so many patch's in all of my life of reading entertainment review's!!!!!! Kelly-Miller, apparently you have much work to do. Fix it without excuses. Dave, you called it as you saw it. No apology necessary!!!!!

Alan Cabal said...

So "Son Of John Moss" thinks that you can't criticize an act unless you've done the act? That's hilarious. I guess you can't criticize a film unless you've made one, or a book unless you've written one, or the government unless you've run one, eh, "Son Of John Moss"?

Good luck with that.