Wednesday, November 17, 2010

PBS Leaves Big Apple Tent Before the Show is Over: Strange Disjointed End to a Scattered Take on Circus Life

[Update: I called the local PBS station; they say technical difficulties caused the second hour not to be shown. It is being repeated next week on another of their channels. I'm going to watch the Monte Carlo episode]

Was that all there was my friend? -- as Peggy Lee would sing. Then let's keep dancing. Let's hope for a better season.

I don't know how to begin this. Such a strange fragmented evening that almost didn't happen. For the first fifteen minutes here in the S.F. Bay Area of tonight's last scheduled two hours of Circus, I sat munching on popcorn while gazing at a notice on my TV: Please Stand By; We Are Having Technical Difficulties.

When finally they got the show rolling, we were, I think, in the backyard. No, make that somewhere around one of the LaSalle brothers, ruing the death of his juggling partnership with the brother headed for medical school.

The sadness I felt last week only elaborated upon itself during this anti-climactic evening. It made me feel like I felt years ago, after looking back at my brief six-week run with Wallace Bros, allegedly clowning, and realizing that "circus" life wasn't for me, that I much preferred sitting out in the seats and watching the show, thank you.

So many early departures on this Big Apple tour. The non-communicating LaSalles, and to think how they thrilled me and I suspected not a thing -- safe illusion out in the seats.

Young Christian Atayde Stoinev, a fine performer, ready to take a crack at college, in effect departing the family tradition.

Big Apple founder Paul Binder wrapping up his last season, his appearances this evening gracious, kind, humble.

Even was Barry Lubin a more sympathetic figure this time out, admitting how "scared to death" he felt contemplating the very idea that in this business, you can be gone tomorrow. His contract, said he, runs through 2012. He knows that new artistic director Guillaume Dufresnoy may have another idea in mind.

We saw a lot of likable Glen Heroy, the new but soon-to-be-gone clown who, according to Lubin, along with Mark Gindick were "invited" guests for only one season, which made me wonder why Binder told Heroy, early in the game, with the delight of discovery, "we have found in you a new character." Who really runs this show, or ever did? Perhaps it's been years since Binder held a firm "yes and no." The producers, I wish, had asked a few more pressing questions. They might have asked to speak with the musical director. They might have introduced us to vibrantly engaging ringmistress Carrie Harvey, who actually announced Play On! They confused viewers, instead, by showing the audition for a new ringmaster that went no where. Did I say "fragmented"?

They might have sent to the cutting room floor some of the dull back-of-the-tent stuff about kids and their romantic and/or sexual escapades. So utterly common.

What else? Before a premature ending, my mouth dropped open wide as that guy Tavis appeared at ten o'clock when I was expecting Circus to roll out its final hour! This I might have seen:

"Big Apple Circus founder Paul Binder embarks on his annual trip to scout new talent at the renowned Monte Carlo circus festival. Not only is this one of the glitziest social events of the year, but it's also an opportunity to stay connected with the international circus community, the extended family if you will. Here, we learn about the long tradition of circus, and how those in this community are working to ensure that circus survives."
But I didn't. Perhaps others will feel much differently than I. The whole thing left me with an empty feeling. I was so taken at first. until they reached a New York opening night that seemed missing in action. I ended up wanting to run away from this circus.

Perhaps the show started an hour earlier than is clearly listed on the local PBS website.

Sorry for this scattered report. OK, I got to see Grandma dance in the rain. I didn't get to see Paul Binder in operation at Monte Carlo. I guess it was just too much circus for the producers of Circus.


Anonymous said...

Good morning David,
As always your reviews are spot on. I wanted to remind you and your readers that they can view all of the episodes on Typing "circus" in the search bar will bring up a list of available episodes. Last nights shows will be up sometime today or tomorrow.

Harry Kingston said...

Well I got to see all the shows on Big Apple.
Drama under the big top just like all the rest of the tenters.
I never have seen this show but looks classy and probably has a nut out of this world.
They have a washer and dryer trailer that's a big plus.
Loved the drama of the storm coming and here in Texas we call it a blue norther.
Tent guy worried it would blow down.
Johnny Pugh on Beatty Cole and if D. R. Miller was still alive they can tell you all about blow downs.
The two jugglers that are brother's and do not speak to each other more drama.
Now on that lady wire act I would rather see Herbie Webber and Boom Boom Browning band with that great real circus music.
The clown act singing in the rain was great.
I wonder how long it takes to set up there tent and those seats I bet also takes a long time to set up.
Well it's a tent show and has a well known name.
Harry in Texas