Mesmerizing star power at the outset: Ty Tojo
Big Apple Circus, Luminocity
May 24, 12:30 pm.
Queens, New York
Luminocity will not go down as one for the books.
This latest edition of Big Apple Circus strives to link circus acts to the sundry goings-on around Times Square — construction workers to cab rides (for dogs), to the surly pickpockets who may still be stalking the sidewalks. But except for two outstanding acts that frame a surprisingly slim lineup, neither the theme nor the performers engaged to bring it off rise above a moderately pleasing campaign.
First, to the good news: Upon entering the tent, a deftly designed set evoking both the grit and glitter of Times Square neon, captivates. Show's amiable host, ringmaster John Kennedy Kane, casts a welcoming figure, both gracious and commanding. He exudes a genuine warmth neither hackneyed nor pandering. And if at moments he comes off a tad awkwardly constrained by some stiff scripting, yet his true colors shine bright at finale. Then, by the sparkling power of his concise announcing style alone, Kane reaches a perfect pitch in oratory, persona, and flair. He and Ringling are a dream match waiting to happen.
An articulate asset: John Kennedy Kane
Another production asset is a rich and vibrant original score, composed by David Bandman and Jeffrey Holme, and delivered with smooth gusto by bandleader Rob Slovik. Only rarely do the charts turn bland or drone out. When the kick-off act, astoundingly accomplished 15-year-old juggler Ty Tojo, hits the ring, the band reads his every move as if the two had been touring together for years. With only one slight miss, this astonishing wizard of manipulation fashions mesmerizing fountains of flying balls in a myriad of patterns, shifting his body positions as he operates. Profoundly satisfying, I could have watched his record-breaking routine another time or two
Tojo’s exhilarating assault is not, unfortunately, sustained by what follows, not, that is, until the Dosov Troupe come on to close out the program. One could argue that there is work of merit on display here. Surely the impressive contortions of Acro Duo command respect. And Daniel Cyr’s agile workout on a free-standing ladder is fairly neat stuff. But these two relatively static turns, neither a driving force, are symptomatic of an inherent weakness in the programming. Add to that the minimal impact of two animal drills managed by the usually brilliant Jenny Vidbel (a big let down -- perhaps, the dogs had an off day) and then, factor in a couple of borderline aerial offerings (one being the theoretically terrific Mongolian Angels,but rigged to mechanics) — and together, they compose a slow-motion pageant shy on the wow factor.
Nor does the show draw much of a pulse from the soft staging given it by director Michel Barette, who seems to favor a tender coddling of audience members for numerous in-the-act recruitments.
So we turn to the clowns. Returning jester Rob Torres is a pleasing enough asset, creatively engaging in a laid-back manner, who evokes some warm laughter. If only he had a stronger show against which to contrast his essentially gentle nature. Another comedic figure is the curiously one-note Pierre Ginet, a fast talking pickpocket who works an audience volunteer. Ginet’s incessantly annoying chatter while removing the man’s assets is much ado about nothing, and before our eyes, we witness an act fizzling out well before its ring time is up.
Most ill-fitting of all are the rickety exploits aloft, fairly fundamental stuff, of aging high wire walkers, Duo Guerrero, whose allusion to romance — she opens with a slow stroll up an inclined wire while taking her sweet time warbling out a schmaltzy ballad, somewhat self-indulgently — comes off as a little cheesy. Now, if she had sung, "Start spreading the news, I'm leaving today!" -- well now, that might have worked. At their best and most serious, they execute a fine two-high human pyramid without lunge down the inclined wire. But exactly how they are supposed to connect with the Times Square angle left me feeling a bit thematically deprived.
Back into high gear sails Big Apple – just in time to thrill us before our ambivalent exits. Enter the Dosov Troupe of teeter-board gods. Their entire act is one perfect sensation — staging to choreography, costumes to scoring, pacing to build. Monte Carlo Gold all the way.
On balance, this meager opus is the weakest Big Apple Circus I have ever seen. Tent only being two-thirds full, the smallest crowd I’ve come upon at a BAC outing, it seemed hardly a surprise. Luminosity must mark a major misstep for new artistic Guillaume Dufresnoy, who has produced superior action and theatrical cohesion in some of his earlier offerings. His reach into a variety of artistic formats is a plus. But like any circus, if you don't have the acts, you don't have the show.
Overall rating (4 stars tops): 2 stars
The Dusov Troupe lift a lagging lineup into big top heaven