"Every crowd has a silver lining" - P. T. Barnum

"Every crowd has a silver lining" - P. T. Barnum
Wonderful quote, which I found on Johnny Pugh's Facebook Page -- a sparkling midway of some great Bill Carter photos, historic videos and mementos. The spirit of the old Cole soul comes alive!

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Tanbark Tremors: Baraboo Jumps to Fresh Blood from O'Donnell... Zippos Packs the Tent, Scotland to England ... Come on In and Let the Spider-Spin Begin! ...

The Thimble Theatre, when it arrived at Circus World Museum over forty years ago, has remained shamefully neglected, virtually never put on public display.

Dateline: Circus World, Baraboo.  At last, Ringlingville seems to be breaking free of the Chappie Fox wagon restoration obsession project, and so lets tip our hats to new CWM exec director, Scott O’Donnell, making wonderful waves of change already.  Call it an attack of common sense, long needed. It marks a dazzling retreat from musty infatuation with anything that resembles the spoke off a circus wagon mired in ancient mud.  They’re talking about letting go of the carnival wagons, which means that the wonderful Thimble Theatre Fun House may yet unfold back into full splendor, down there in Gibsonton, Florida.  A thunderbolt of smart thinking is shadowing spot-on Scott on.  He’s putting the summer show back under a big top, along with some exciting new innovations ... Library guy Peter Shrake revealing plans to let go of excess duplicate collections, of house cleaning. Items might be put up for auction or offered to other institutions.  And they are, yes, dropping the name  "Gibsonton" with respect.

Here to quote their thinking, from a news report:  "If the plan to cull the collection goes through, a funhouse wagon and a group of carnival prizes would be donated to a carnival museum in Florida,.  Because they came from carnivals, rather than circuses, Circus World considers them inconsistent with the collection's mission."   Common sense, at last, decades in the making.  Finally, an adult at the CEO desk.

The old Ringling 600-foot long train shed, a fascinating walk-through, now under renovation.  Scott O'Donnell, photo above, hoping to open its doors for visitors - "Once you step in there, you're instantly transported to the early 1900s."   Oh, how right he is.  I've walked that shed.   Yes, open the windows wide and let the sun in!, to quote from a line in a song ditty composed by John Ringling North for his first indoor edition of the Greatest Show on Earth.  He, too, was forced to make big changes. Scott is hot on this lot.

High Wire artists, you’ve got work in the public utilities sector! Light bulbs at Heathrow, announced a British Airways e-mail sent to staff, needing to be changed by “high wire-artists.”  Terminal 5 was designed such as to “allow no safe way of changing the bulbs,” reported the Daily Mail.  If you by chance have a flight out of that portal, I’d suggest bringing a flash light just in case — unless your name is Wallenda. 

Sellouts in Sunny Hove, England for Zippos Circus. Long lines ringing lots everywhere in the UK

And while over across the Pond, Zippos Circus, I am happily apprised by Douglas McPherson,  has been packing the tent, from Scotland down into England.  Photos do warm the heart.  Have you any pictures of long lines in stateside lots waiting to pack tents our way? Pictures from 2013 forward?   Send ‘em my way, and I’ll throw them up here, maybe all the way to the top ...

Let the Spider-Spin begin ... Yeah, I’m back, for the fun, on that big Broadway blowout, finally crashing to earth come January. Already, the director called in to “save” a troubled property, Philip William McKinley, spinning a flop into a hit.  Quad City Times touting how he converted the show's "disastrous previews" into a "major success."  Let's think this out.  So a show that loses $60 million over a two and a half year run is a major success?  It may have brought in a million people faster than any other Broadway show in history, as alleged by McKinley, but feat was done on the back of massive life-support funding.

Truth behind the stats:  To bring off this cosmetic victory, Spider-Man, if I recall correctly, sold tons of discount tickets, and it performed in a large theatre containing many more seats than other old-Gotham playhouses. Another strange claim:  McKinley, according to the story, is reported being the director who staged  “the most editions” of  Ringling-Barnum.  Paaaaallleeeeze!  I can think of Richard Barstow, who coaxed and badgered the cast into form for  maybe 25-30 shows; before him, Al Ringling was the lead director from the first show he and his brothers put out, in 1884, until the time of Al’s death in 1916. Adds up to 30-plus seasons.   Not to slight Mr.McKinley’s great work; his Boom-a-Ring was about the best Feld-Ringling show I’ve seen in decades.  He also evidently picked up a lot about working PR from the Feld of Felds.

Salvation in Sin City?  Says Spiderman’s to-the-rescue director, talking up a transfer to Las Vegas,  “we’re rewriting the whole thing.” Now, is that not a concession to a failed script?   “We get to go in there now and do it from the beginning."

Broadway bound revival of Sideshow, which tried out in San Diego, headed next to DC, recently checked out by Don Covington, who sends along a snapshot impression:  "It’s still a work in progress. ... The novelty of seeing the co-stars maneuver on stage as co-joined twins wears thin after a while and the show plods along without a great deal of momentum. It could use some of the razzle dazzle that the Hilton twins brought to their shows in vaudeville where they were, at one time, the highest paid act on the circuit.”  These revival things are so hellishly tricky to make fly, once having crashed landed the first time out. 

Spider-Man may crash again.  The twins may suffer another flat ballyhoo on  the Great White Way..  But down in Gibsonton town, I’m banking on the Thimble Theatre from Foley & Burk rocking the midway in revival.  I can almost hear  its shuffle boards grinding this way and that, its air blasts aimed at loose skirts across a grid, the moo of the mechanical cow's head moving back and forth.  Back and forth.  This fun house, trust me, kids, has soul ...

Once a hit, always a hit. 

1 comment:

John Herriott said...

I do not believe the car barns are worthy of any restoration for use as any attraction. They are just that. A long series of barns over RR tracks. Sameo, sameo. Sur could use money elsewhere to e sure. Hip-podrome is fine for the moment. Tents do blow dow sitting up day and night for weeks. Not a very inspiring beginning. johnny