Clown for a New Day

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

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Flashy -- In-the-Air & Too Much in the Audience -- Circus Vargas is a Bombastic Work in Progress


Circus Review: Circus Vargas

HOLLYWOOD, May 15. There is plenty in this new edition to please about everybody, from fussy Cirque du Soleil fans seeking sublime poetry in the air to the common herd easily amused by the spectacle of their friends and neighbors being made the butt of a clown's humor in the ring. And, if you enjoy being part of a TV taping audience during warm ups before the actual taping begins, here you'll get a like experience in heavy doses. Lots of opportunities to shout back to a ringmaster's recurring questions, "I didn't hear you scream!" or "how are you liking our show so far?"

If it all sounds familiar, sorry to report, Circus Vargas continues in its particular coddling of the audience. David Larible lovers will love this show, a good collective half hour or more of an already overly long performance is given over to audience participation. And that's not counting the first fifteen minutes of the program devoted to Jon Weiss putting the kids through some fun tricks, such as balancing feathers atop their foreheads. To be fair, the pre-show stuff is a popular party, and, as for all the time taken to recruit volunteers down to the ring, audience at this show lapped it all up. There are at least four occasions, the longest lasting eleven minutes, when Weiss and the clown go to work on or with the audience. (The website does not yet list names of acts; these I will supply later)

In the take-note category, there are a few memorable acts. Yes, this show also presents acts. Taking away the biggest cheers are a group of comedy tumblers from Kenya; they're standout stars with their sly interactions, building to some terrific human pyramids. Another high is the sight of an aerialist's vertical ascent while twirling three hula hoops around different parts of her body. It's a wonderful example of the hoops being turned into pro props by a pro. Beautiful image.

One of the more inventive aerial turns has a trio of women working the up-and-down cables, connecting with single traps and effecting some nifty flight patterns, all except for absence of a strong finish. A fine source of artistic satisfaction is that of a fellow working double ropes, his circular patterns reminding us of the magic of the ring's shape itself. Show offers a couple of big daredevil turns, too, one delivered by a man recklessly walking the wheel of destiny, the other, by two motor bike riders circling the globe of death while its top and bottom sections separate widely -- a genuine old-fashion thriller.

The Flying Tabares again fail to justify the historic build-up given their act, misleadingly linking them to the earlier branch of the troupe that regularly turned triples and landed Monte Carlo Gold. These current reps don't produce much other than sexy posturing. Not even an attempted triple at this 6:30 show. The main flyer does dazzle with bravado executing basic items.

Opener is a sock example of gifted direction merging the company in a number of items as a teaser, If only this brilliant directorial attack had shaped the entire layout, editing out a good amount of it. But Circus Vargas just can't stop talking to the audience, hauling it into the ring, photographing it in the seats, appealing to it for cheering expressions of its pleasure with the show.

There are dull empty dark pauses between acts. The hot-air Ringmaster spends time, when not over-orating, working drums and cymbals to augment a recorded soundtrack. On balance, musical scoring and lush lighting effects are outstanding. Finale frame, cast taking bows, is a lovely ring picture crowned by falling white confetti. Then the performers, per another labored interactive Vargas policy, report to the front connection, there to smilingly await hoped-for praise and autograph requests from the exiting customers.

Naturally, spirits were high today, for Angelinos jammed the Sunset Boulevard lot to give the show a nearly turnaway crowd. Show was late in starting, likely due to equally good biz at the first performance and all the time-consuming concessions prolonging running time.

Ringmaster has the audacity to pitch photo ops with his snake, $10 a pop, which extends intermission to nearly a half hour. We are made to wait while he hosts every last customer. An obscene exhibition of self-serving retail by a man whose snake bears absolutely no connection to the show or even to the front end.

Circus Vargas does a number of things with exemplary class and creativity. Maybe one season yet they will reach for a bigger league. They have it in them

Overall rating (out of 4 stars tops): 2-1/2 stars

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