Clown for a New Day

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

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Saturday Slide Bys: UniverSoul Circus Not So Black Anymore; Cirque Cusine for the Lucky; Money Woes for Big Tops Big and Little ...

First Draft Random: Big difference between "traditional" circuses and UniverSoul, says the show's director of operations Ben Johnson, "is its target audience." And that's not me. And that's why it may never be a breeze to catch this show, unless I'm in the mood for risking getting mugged. I'd love to see what the show's up to these days, for one, less black acts from the U.S., more from abroad. Owner Cedric Walker, talking to a reporter in Memphis, TN, last August, conceded what most of us already know, favoring the superior "quality of acts that come from foreign countries." ... Paul Binder, after birthing his Big Apple Circus in 1977, vowing to present local acts trained in his circus school, soon came to grips with the same reality, deferring to those super stars from Over There ...

KLS Dad on the NY scene, e-mailing me a big surprise, that Ringling-Barnum won't play Madison Square Garden for a couple of years. Reason being, the Garden is being renovated, and will not re-open till 2013. Which also means that Cirque du Soleil's Wintuk ends its run this season, over which, I'm certain, a certain other annual NY circus is not shedding any tears. Seems that Wintuk was originally slated for a five-year pact; this may be their fourth try at the Big Apple market ... KLS noting Cirque ads for its ZAARKANA opus, being readied to hit the boards of Radio City Music Hall next summer, and, drats! -- I'll likely be there too soon to catch it. I'm fearlessly predicting it will NOT be another Banana Shpeel, assuming King Laliberte has learned some lessons from his Big Gotham Floporama. Whatever we get, it's likely to be something better defined.

A Giving Heart from Ringling: The Big Show, joining compassion with Amway Center in Orlando and Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida. In only two hours during a drive-through, hundreds of Floridians dropped off food donations, in exchange for which, they were given vouchers to Ringling's new show, Fully Charged ... And, finally, an easy-to-pronounce, easy to remember, and fun to say title from the Feld of Felds! Say it again: Fully Charged! ... And how easy was the charitable exercise. The givers only had to drive onto the parking lot, stay seated in their cars, and wait for volunteers to receive their unexpired food items for passes to the Big Show ... Ah, there's one circus with a very efficient heart ...

Those pampered Cirque du Soleil Stars: Two hot meals served them daily, and the food is not from any old tent show gut foundry. Cirque's Park Avenue cuisine generously sensitive to the varied nationalities it serves and must sustain for perfect executions in the ring. On the Chinese-populated Dralion, Asian meals are a routine, with "a cooker of steamed rice" always at hand ... A blender stands by for smoothies and the like. On a recent opening night, staff feasted on lobster and Steak Diana. Maybe the old Ringling-Barnum cookhouse on occasion came close. Not the one on the Wallace Bros. Circus I clowned for one summer, which kept my stomach in a near-constant state of unrest ...

Money Problems, They All Have: Big story in the New York Post, crammed with numbers, about harsh cutbacks made by Big Apple Circus in its staff and budget in recent bleak seasons. Slumping ticket sales and corporate handouts noted in the lead. Slashing of administrative jobs, a first in 20 years. 325 performances three years ago; this season: they're "hoping" to present 285 in "just five cities." Boy, does that sound like a familiar theme --- will we play the full season, Brad?!? --- in DeMille's film The Greatest Show on Earth ... Even Cirque du Soleil, though hardly suffering, is out there scouting for more loot to help fund its new shows planned for Radio City Music Hall and the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood. Laliberte hiring a London firm to seek possible investors. The Dubai partners, who bought a 20% stake in the show, might be hurting, their landscape doted with huge skyrises yet to rise. I still wonder if CDS is not falling deeper into a dangerous game of over-expansion dominoes ...

Reviews That Make Me Wonder: Big Apple Circus not so lucky away from the rosy notice it got, as per usual, out of The New York Times. Here's a different take on Dance On! from another source, New Jersey News Room.Com You've got to read between the lines and count the "buts" dropped by a gently questioning Michael Sommers. After discussing things he seems to have wanted to like, says he, "Dance On! appears somewhat underpowered. High above the crowd, Russian aerialist Regina Dubrovitskaya satisfactorily swings on ropes, but perhaps substituting more dynamic episodes -- say a trampoline or a trapeze act -- in place of the program's able but relatively static jugglers and contortionists might generate a livelier overall occasion." The way he uses that word "satisfactorily" makes it sound like a high school lab assignment being graded. Now, if that isn't the essence of a tactful critique, I don't know what is.

A Second Look at PBS Circus: The long 6-hour series garnered, overall, far more media coverage and, on balance I suppose, better reviews than Dance On! Certainly, more reviews. I'll be watching a repeat of the last two hours on Monday night; here in the Bay Area, last Wednesday's broadcast was ("technical difficulties") botched up and slashed down to a mere 45 minutes. I'm looking forward to the Paul Binder goes to Monte Carlo segment. Please, bomb kid and the other young restless staffers who text and sext in the backyard, don't be there. Go clubbing. Go slumming. You can't compete with what this show should have been more thoroughly about ...

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