Clown for a New Day

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

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

From Carson and Barnes, 2011: Vexingly Uneven Opus Mixes World Class Action with Amateurs in Slapdash Package


Circus Review: Carson & Barnes

Antioch, CA
May 2, 2011, 4:30 PM

Perhaps the most amazing thing about this circus is that it is still on the road. Whenever I go, most of the seats are vacant. This time, I estimate that around ten percent were filled, most of them moppets who seemed amply engaged.

The next most amazing thing, certainly this year: Carson and Barnes can throw into the same ingloriously staged mishmash performers of world class status with utterly rank amateurs. Go figure.

The show proves, as I have often argued, that at practically any circus you are likely to find one or two very good acts, if not more. Top of the class on this generously varied bill are the juggling Rinny family, whose star attraction, a young man, sustains a mesmerizing display of juggling expertise and showmanship. Worth the price alone. The four family members work splendidly well together through a variety of routines. They're the real thing.

Equally accomplished is gifted contortionist of a thousand body bends and tucks, pulls and dislocations -- Kevin Barnal Rios from Columbia. He's a standout showman producing complex, sensually executed contortions. How refreshing to find so much more in so much less — less being no partners. He goes solo and brings fresh life to a genre all too often, no matter how impressive, slow moving. Not with this star. Ends up inside a glass cube. Guy could play most venues to kudos.

Also on stellar sawdust are a couple of skilled bide riders, Jonathon and Jasmine Olivero, nicely building their repertoire from simple to surprising. Another winning asset is the “silk artistry” work of a young man, sans (I assume) partner. C&B Website references the De Paula Duo. (Show sells no program magazine) He connects well with the crowd working the usual basics up and down a ribbon.

Rounding out pro offerings are a trio of high wire walkers, the Tandazos, who deliver mid-level staples to wining effect; and, of course, the Carson and Barnes elephants, but not without a shocking deficit: This pachyderm performance was the shortest I have ever witnessed, and I came expecting a Big Show. I could not believe my eyes. (The Flying Cavallini Famly did not appear owing to a recent fall; the flyer is reported in stable condition and is expected to make a full recovery)

As for the rest of the outing, one or two acts manage to please despite meager ingredients: For instance, so fundamentally home-made are Dallas’s Doggies, that they charm, thanks to a skillfully developed program advancing from simple to amusing. Over, around or under four hurdles each move. Last dog simply knocks 'em all down. Funniest moment in the whole show.

Other turns may leave you yawning. The wheel of death is pretty dull stuff. A pony drill is almost ok. Weakest item by far is the unwelcome sight of a fellow nervously trying to bring off a slack rope effort. He's not yet ready, not even for sub-prime time.

Comedy? About as much a drag as a tickle (rarely) is Alex, working mostly the same numbers I remember from two years ago. He scores the best when his bits are brief, when he's mimicking the star performers; not at all when he interacts laboriously with the show’s laborious ringmaster, who gets from me an “O” rating — O for Obnoxious (ok, you can think “overbearing” if that makes you feel better). His tediously overblown oratory cries out for a gag order. He and Alex produce more ear-shattering noise than genuine humor.

Costumes are colorful enough. Aerial ballet is adequate at best. Parades have dazzle and opulence but lack better staging at front and end segments. Some of the music references Cirque du Soleil scoring; other puts us onto a late-night disco meat rack.

To their credit, the Byrds seem sincere in trying to upgrade and diversify the quality of the performance. That's obvious. But they have yet to break some old habits that denigrate the good moves they are making. Peanut and coloring books pitches remain, of course.

Carson & Barnes, with judicious direction and pruning, could be so much more.

Overall Rating (out of four stars tops): 2 stars

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

Still, it sounds like it's a vast improvement over the 5 ring days. OMG, I don't know if you ever saw THAT debacle. If you could juggle 3 scarves, you got a ring in a display, and the animal department was a horror show.
The Byrds are lucky they have elephant acts to farm out, because, I can't see how they could keep this thing going. Could they reduce it to 1/2 ring?

Bardy

Harry Kingston said...

I have seen Carson and Barnes every year since 1970 and it is like the old time circuses.
D. R. Miller the man with a plan had a 5 ring circus and no other show since Ringling and Dailey railroad had a 5 ring tent show.
He had 4 flying acts and some went on to be on ringling.
No other circus since Ringling ever carried so many animals. A rhino, large hippo, 23 plus elephants, and many ones that small town folks would not see any where else.
One of the largest tents ever put up since Ringling with 8 center poles.
Many acts in 5 ring displays and some 3 ring displays etc.
In the last few years a new state of the art tent worth over 1/2 million plus new towers and lights etc.
Plus the elephant breeding facility that costs tons of money so the show can have asian elephants in the future.
Again all this costs tons of money and you got to make it to spend it.
Plus keep the nut from going out of sight.
David Rawls has been hired to book and promote the circus and as many years as he has been in the business he ought to do them a great job.
This year is the 75th anniversary of this family owned circus.
The Miller-Byrd team though the years always tires to put on a good show for the buck without charging $35 up for tickets.
So Carson and Barnes is like old man river and keeps on a going on.
This is a family circus run by a family that knows what they are doing and will be around for generations to come.
Harry in Texas

Anonymous said...

I just saw RBBB 'Fully Charged' (and we were). Basically 5 strongish numbers filled out with endless, and I mean ENDLESS, really bad clown appearances. Is it really neccessary to lampoon every previous act? Maybe clowns were always that unfunny, or is it just me? It was a 10.30am show of mostly kids who sat in bored silence through the whole thing. About 1/2 the row behind me abandoned their top priced seats and headed for the exits during the first half.
The big tiger act was, well, a big tiger act. The wire act was strong and I liked the aerial strap display. The horse display was basic with little attempt at dressing the animals up with plumes or trappings. Elephants were basic with lots of microphoned yelling of commands. The strong men did an abreviated act and performed, what looked like, a fat man parody of an adagio, even holding a handstand for a second. The juggling display was good. Everything else is almost forgotten, and it was just a couple of hours ago.
They could have taken the same line-up, put it in 3 real rings with ring carpets, cut 90% of the clown and dancing girl numbers and it would have been an instant improvement. Also, put some money into elephant blankets - the one for the opening walkaround for the 'Star Spangled Banner' was the one they used at Coney Island and looked a tad shabby. Besides, singing the anthem at a circus is just a time stretcher.
I know it was a morning show, but the crowd was less than 10% of the seats, probably closer to 5% capacity.

If I was asked, I'd give it 2 stars out of 5.

Bardy

Anonymous said...

Harry, touting CB's 5 ring displays is like say the homeless in New York eat better because there's more dumpsters

Anonymous said...

Seems the other GSOE is playing to less-than enthusiastic reviews as well.

http://www.timesunion.com/default/article/Ringling-circus-is-mostly-a-waste-1369417.php#ixzz1Ll0CIXPw

Harry Kingston said...

Anonymous,
At least I sign my name to my comments good or bad and you don't.
Harry in Texas

Showbiz David said...

I checked out the Ringling review directed to us by Anonymous, and it strikes me as venomously biased by the writer's obvious disdain of animal acts. There were things about the show I did not like either (mostly the sledgehammer showmanship), but it offers many high points to commend it.

Wade G. Burck said...

Showbiz,
I didn't interpret an "obvious disdain of animal acts," as much as an obvious disdain for what the animal acts actually did and how they did it, because he obviously liked the dog. He apparently hasn't been around to long, because luckily he only went back a quarter-century to find a wrong comparison of cirque to circus. But that may have worked in Ringling's favor, because if he was more knowledgeable and had gone back to the 70's early 80's, what he was looking at would have really sucked big time. He has no idea that 3.14 million shiny costume adornments wouldn't make one Don Foote costume back in the day, let alone a complete show. His mention that 3 other act's beside the current flying act have attempted the quad is ridiculous and only points out he was reading off of a press release. Only one, in addition to being the first, ever did it with enough real consistency to actually acknowledge it as an achievement and that was the Flying Vazquez. The rest, while the attempt is commendable, are astrix's and a Chinese Gucci knock-off to the quadruple.
Our late friend, Henry Edgar helped me realize his passion for Clyde Beatty. He saw it, he witnessed it and "I" couldn't begin to comprehend. Henry was correct because I saw and witnessed Miguel and Juan, GGW, Charly Baumann, Axel Gautier etc. This reviewer can't even began to comprehend.


P.S. to Harry Kingston, everybody dislikes an anonymous, so it it will make you feel better I will agree with him 100% and sign my name,

Wade Burck

Showbiz David said...

Wade, I am glad you have come to appreciate Henry's advocacy of Clyde Beatty. How I miss Henry! I saw Beatty when I was 11 years old, the entire act, not as cut up in the movie, but in the flesh, in real time when we felt anything could happen in that cage. Yes, lots of hokum, I suppose, but it worked, and it was the most dramatic moment I ever spent in a circus. Years later when I saw Beatty, by then I could not get the same feeling.

I am glad you had your thrilling circus "blown away" moment thanks to GGW, a great showman and animal trainer. And totally the opposite of Beatty.

Wade G. Burck said...

Showbiz,
I don't know if they were totally opposite or exactly the same, just with different way's of expressing what they did. They had the same thing Elvis Presley had that is so hard to identify, but you will know what it is when you see it, charisma.

Wade Burck

Anonymous said...

I just took my lil guy to see the Carson and Barnes circus and it was thruly the WORST wannabe cicus I have EVER seen in my ENTIRE life. I want my money back frankly. the acts were mediocre at most, and my lil guy kept telling me he was bored. The clowns looked like something out of "Killer Clowns From Outer Space," and where were the animals?? A disaster. Should be called a Variety Show, not a circus. No tigers, no bears, nothing. I will never again waste my money on such poor quality entertainment. Whatever happened to Barnum and Bailey? Now THAT was a circus..