Clown for a New Day

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

Monday, July 05, 2010

Comparing Three Reviews of Ringling's Illuscination -- Well, Have You Anything Better To Do at the Moment?


For smaller and medium sized circuses to get reviewed at all is extremely unlikely. They can go for years without ever facing the pen of a legitimate media outlet. Even the larger shows, save for Cirque du Soleil, hardly ever receive the sort of objection evaluation routinely dolled out to virtually all other forms of entertainment.

Even Ringling rarely gets covered in the bigger cities anymore. They are more often than not ignored these days by the major New York dailies; the Times, it seems, sometimes skips covering their openings at Madison Square Garden.

Here, for the fun of it (well, I’m having fun), is a comparative rundown of three reviews, and the only three I could find on the internet so far, of Ringling’s Illuscination out at Coney Island. Your three sources are Jason Zinoman of The New York Times (NYT); Thurston Dooley III writing for The Brooklyn Paper (BP) , and myself (SD). I’m focusing on the acts, and then giving my take on the overall verdict of the respective reviewers. Feel free to comment or check in with your own mini-assessments.

ILLUSIONIST DAVID DAVINCI

BP “a great showman and solid illusionist”

NYT “magicians rip off Houdini more than rappers steal from James Brown”

SD “stunning big box illusions by the masterful David Divinci.”

THE CLOWNS

BP “several extended clown bits ... fall flat.”

NYT “the clowns would never be described as Beckettian”

SD “clever clowning ... comedy fairly sails along”

SUN JUNJIE AND QIN GUOJING, KUNG FU ACROBATS

BP “a rare mix of strength, agility and dare-devilishness”

NYT “steal the show”

SD “masterful”

LION ACT presented by BRIAN MCMILLAN

BP “The lion routine was fairly, well routine.”

NYT “There is something troubling about watching those proud wild animals move robotically in rigid unison.”

SD “Biggest embarrassment ... a new low in big cage showmanship”

ELEPHANTS presented by RAMON ESQUEDA

BP not mentioned

NYT not mentioned other than characterizing the mere presence of elephants as capturing “the old fashioned hucksterism of the circus”

SD “a little too plain and lackluster”

HAIR HANGING BY THE MEDEIROS

BP “lives up to its billing”

NYT not mentioned

SD “infuses the genre with novel twists”

DONNERT JUGGLERS ON HORSE BACK

BP “make too many mistakes”

NYT not mentioned.

SD “showed us how not to. I counted at least four errors”

MOTORCYCLE-UP-THE-WIRE

BP “less than interesting”

NYT not mentioned

SD among “bargain basement forgettables”

COMEDY HORSE AND CLOWN ACT

BP horse’s “timing was better than his human partner ... fell flat.”

NYT not mentioned.

SD “the star of this edition ... Monte Carlo: send the horse and that clown the gold.

PANFILOVS HOUSE CATS

BP Reviewer found the act “problematic” because of his belief thatthe show did not register well with those in the bleacher seats.

NYT “extraordinary”

SD “don’t go for perfection unless you’re willing to take it from a horse or a cat ... the cats being those presented by the Panifilovs”

SALSATIONS on RUSSIAN BAR and TEETERBOARD

BP “quiet acrobatics”

NYT not mentioned

SD They “score well on multiple Russian bars,” but their teeterboard turn featured “standard tricks, assisted and/or saved by lifelines”

FRANCLEIB RODRIGUES, single traps and upside down loop walk

BP not mentioned

BP not mentioned

SD “beguiling ... brief appearance”

DOUBLE LOW WIRE ACT

No mention from any of us. How very interesting.

OVERALL COMMENTS ON THE SHOW

BP “solid entertainment ... outstanding wonders of human amazement ... the bad news: a handful of acts were just too small or too subtle to register with the bleacher creatures”

NYT “most notable for harking back to its delightfully grubby past ... a ragged affair.

SD: “a very good variety show ... glitzy ... shrewdly powered by sex, fireworks, clowns, magic — and a few good acts.”

I am more than baffled by Brooklyn Paper’s quibbling over acts being too small to see in this tent. This is not a huge tent.

As for the Times, what to think? Considering Zinoman’s classic opening put-down, “it never was ‘The Greatest Show on Earth,’" what else were we to expect?

Why was I so thoroughly amused by a horse and clown act that left the other two critics unimpressed? It puzzles me; the audience too seemed totally into the act.

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For the record: last year's Boom-A-Ring earned three virtual raves. One appeared in the The Brooklyn Paper, which published two reviews, the other, by Dooley, being downbeat; another on the Broadway website Theatre Mania, and the third on this blog.

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