Saturday, July 23, 2011

Coney Island Big Top Blues: Ringling is Gone, Vidbel Barely Arrived

Coney Island, a hard sell for big tops: Feld came and went in two seasons, fully charged now to take the new arena under construction. A great two-season era for Ringling under canvas is history. I for a moment fell in love with Ringling-Barnum all over again, 'twas so much better in just one ring, where the Felds, I humbly assume, were forced to contain and curtail, defrock and derail their fireworks showmanship. Out of there, they've got space booked into the new arena going up near the Atlantic yards.

Don't take Coney for granted. Heck, don't take Gotham for granted. A long ambivalent story and review in the blog Travelanche, penned by "Trav SD," rues the super shortened run of Circus Vidbel, originally slated to play through Labor Day. But summer came and went, almost before summer even came. Vidbel is history too. The story offers both praise for the acts and hints at a certain lack of production values, all of it lending the impression that a middle-of-the-road "family circus" hasn't a ghost of a reach by the beach ...

Self-billed as "the original olde tyme circus under the big top," one might wonder, and where was the olde tyme ballyhoo? Seems the media dolled out more attention on Ringling not returning to Coney than on Vidbel being there. But you gotta put the word out, and these free tix tops have gotten lazy on front end hype, settling for peanuts. The show drew out the booster in Trav SD, mystified over the absence of PR, but finding some nice things to say ("several very fine acts"), except for lots lacking, such as: "The ringmaster needs elocution lessons ... Like all the acts in this show, he [vase balancer Guimeng Ming] would benefit from slicker packaging ...." And so on.

About the show's anonymous appearance, might it be that, "the entire news apparatus of New York City actively wanted the circus to fail, which hardly seems likely." No, Trav, not likely. Either that, or they took a look inside the tent and decided to keep their critical chops off. And let kindness tell the story, kindly. The idea of a small family show thinking it could fill a giant gap left by Ringling is mind-boggling. But then again, one thing the American circus has never been short or shy on is optimism.

Okay, here's the not-so-kind from non-circus fan booster Trav: "the grounds around the tent were full of garbage. The ring wasn't swept. It looked like everyone needed a rest. Production values were definitely stretched to the limit. A peek at their website shows much fancier costumes than I saw on view in the tent yesterday. As well as the horses. Their press release mentions an equestrian act, but it looks like the riders have ridden off into the sunset since then."

The tent seated 600. The audience numbered "two or three dozen people."

The show opened on July 4.

The show closed on July 17, one day short of a two week run. Kindly.

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