"It's good to be the king," says Facebook host Sebastian, left, of his boss, John Ringling North II
Not a good idea, and when you are sent a DVD by the owner himself, gifting you with a copy of what was intended to be “for the exclusive use of the management and personnel of Kelly Miller Circus,” doubly bad an idea. Reckless and potentially unfair. Not to mention colossally ungrateful.
Most every season, so far, John Ringling North II has sent me the DVD taken of the current performance. Short of getting to see the show, it gives me at least a fairly good impression of highs and lows.
Since there are amply highs to talk about, talk I will. And gratefully. This, for the record, is NOT a full and formal review.
Much like Big Apple (these days) and Vargas and, I suppose, all the struggling others, Kelly Miller offers a vexingly mixed bag. One thing they all have in common is a risky proclivity, in my biased opinion, for spending too much time in the audience — traipsing through or pulling out “volunteers” for Pin the Donkey and Jump the Rope Blindfolded, you get my dreary drift? New clown Fajolino, a funny fellow to look at, may have a good future, if only he had more of his own gags to work, if only he were barred from leaving the ring to recruit.
Kelly Miller’s strong points are about as strong as they can get. I can think of three for sure – two outstanding jugglers and a dancing elephant that will knock your socks off, and a good fourth, a very charming, very clever, and very inventive ventriloquist of imported dazzle named Sebastian.
Let’s specify a bit. Sebastian, his lips amazingly locked, has this funny big bird literally on hand, but he also has to deal with, nearby out of a perky little garbage can, a mouthy mute who, at intervals, pops its head through the lid to issue a wise crack. The back and forth is warmly amusing; we are in the presence of something genuinely novel. High marks.
How I wish Sebastian and associates would have returned one or two times during the program — working a variation on the theme. I would love to have spotted that little garbage can in the shadows, causing me to wonder gleefully what might next transpire between the ventriloquist and the dog demanding attention.
Okay, onto the Gold. Returning juggler Nocolas Souren, left , whom I liked last year, I was wowed by this time around. Terrific formations, cascading one to another. So perfectly wrought as to equal a seven course meal.
On the more rambunctious side, came, A+ in my opinion, ball bouncing dynamo, Abrahm Gebre, also back, who, among his rousing repertoire, conjures up a mesmerizing traffic jam with no stops or collisions of balls whizzing around and between each other while bouncing off angled boards. Boffo! He has the energy of an acrobat, the precision of NASA and he’s a natural born audience grabber.
About that prima pachyderm, Anna Louise, I can’t recall ever seeing an elephant shake its limbs and strut itself so expressively to the beat as this one. You can almost hear Anna's trunk trunking out “gotta dance! Jungle fever jump!" Unreal. A++!!!
Down on earth, there are, of course, the usual regulars — a band of performers, who will, it seems, recycle acts, take on new ones, work more Cherie pie no problem, do almost anything they can to remain employed by John the Sequel. (People tend to love working for guy.) Some of those long termers may be good enough for a kid seeing his first circus, I suppose. Some are the weak links in a chain of survival.
Some, like Carolyn Rice’s eager-to-please dogs, manage to entertain with a little help from the trainer. Okay, comes a four legged something or other costumed as a life guard, and the act delivers. BIG. Yes, very funny. Let’s face it, dogs just can’t fail. This act has great spirit. Even a slightly home made quality that may add to its charm.
Two new airborne items: Here is where not being there puts one watching it all on film at possibly the greatest disadvantage. On the webs, Zaya and Mendee would probably be more lovely and refreshing to experience live. Likely more compelling than they is the single trap workout of Kimberly Souren, complete with swinging heel catches. Her climactic spinning iron jaw from the trapeze in motion would have been more exciting had it not already been done, thus its impact diminished to a degree, by new ringmistress Rebecca Ostroff, albeit stationary, during the aerial ballet.
Most impressive surprise: Ensemble choreography. All hail the hoofer-in-chief! Dorothy, we are no longer in Hugo. We are in Las Vegas. These routines are marvelously shaped and executed.
Biggest disappointment (bear with me here John, I like your peanuts) is the music. Weakest of all, sorry to say; the taped score did not measure up to some better results in past seasons. I got the feeling that whatever CDs the show was handed, those they rolled with. Case in point, a French song sung in French while Kimberly Souren flew.
Although Ostroff cuts a fairly pleasing figure in her new role, I missed the commanding aura of John Moss II, whose ringmastering power helped compensate for Kelly Miller being usually shy on big thrill acts. I hope he returns.
So that’s it. That’s how, here in front of my 22 inch Sharp flat-screen TV, the House of Ringling looks.
Photos by Rick Purdue.