Oakland to DC: Strike up the Bella Band!

Oakland to DC:  Strike up the Bella Band!
One of the best scored circuses in America. Scroll down to see the full story.

Thursday, January 05, 2017

Elephants Returning to Madison Square Garden! ... Surfing Dogs Make Rose Parade! ... Kelly Miller Peanut Sales Sell Out! ... But It's Tough Trouping in Tough Times, Royally Speaking


Welcome to 2017!
Or, should I say 1903?


This might be fun, come spring when a circus of sorts plays Madison Square Garden, complete with performing pachyderms!  Yes, but, wait.  Close your eyes to the wires and all the artificial joints making them so nimble.  They are puppets.   And you, Mr. and Mrs. VIP, who can afford the pricey seats ($139-$129), may have to put aside your issues with show-off animals.  Circus 1903, a new stage show,  will give you a virtual elephant act, the purpose being simply to celebrate their prominence in the “golden age” of the circus. 

           Why Wait for Puppet Pachyderms
           When We Offer You the Real thing!

That should be a banner line on all circus ads for the show(s) still daring to present living breathing elephants.   Kelly-Miller Circus, said to have signed on with one of the Friscos working a trio o f Big Guys, might make it work. For, per the show’s former general manager, James Royal, in the small towns were the circus of John Ringling North II likes to pitch canvas, “the customers like traditional circus.  It still appeals to people of all ages and demographic factors.”

More from Sir Royal, below...


          How authentic, The  Circus 1903?

Yes, the posters look very enticing, indeed.  But, from one review I read, with high hopes at the start, the stage affair sounds maybe more artsy than authentic.  Like, say a, mixture of old time imagery and costumes with new time Cirque du Soleil posturing and contorting, etc.   I was set on going down to LA in February to take in a performance at the Pantages Theatre.    Not so sure now.  They have themselves booked across the U.S. through a slew of big cities, making a 12-day appearance in New York at the Madison Square Garden Theatre, April 5-16.

          Puppet PETA Protesters?

Why not.  After all,  to be true to their  progressive opposition to circus animal acts of all kinds, dare such a liberal — the sort to whom, I’d guess, this show is being marketed, patronize a show that celebrates performing elephants in any form?  Is such chic patronage, therefore, not an act of philosophical hypocrisy?  (Somebody, check the Constitution, please.)   If you cheer the imagery of a circus staple fast disappearing, do you not embrace the actuality of it?  I take heart in  Circus 1903's glowing embracement of elephant acts of yore. 



         Surfing dogs at the Rose Parade

Yes, and what a hoot, and just another circusy manifestation on the edges, proving the enduring appeal of true circus itself.  I’m hoping that President-Elect Tweetie Trump will take in a real circus, make a big Tweet over it, and make it okay once again for the public to do likewise.  Do you remember the Trump Tent, as it was called --- when, as I fuzzily recall, Mr. T. funded a new big top for Big Apple Circus?

          Royally Speaking ...

James Royal, who has managed both the Big Apple and Kelly Miller tops,  had a lot to share with me on the challenges facing today’s owners, and I intend to reprint his full e-mal to me in the coming weeks.  For now, suffice it to cover a few points that caught my eye:

Big Apple Circus’s Big Operation: “Moving the show was extremely expensive  ... The show moved on 33 semis, plus vans, pickups and Rvs ... The show could do good business in a smaller venue such as Charleston ... but the cost of getting it there was huge."

Did you know they took their air-conditioning units on the road?  Now I do.  Another two semis, fork life and separate generator, details  Jim.  Now, do you see why they are bankrupt? 


North and Royal.  They ended their partnership at the end of 2015

Kelly Miller’s banner season, when?  Seems it was 2012, during a presidential election year, when,  by tradition, big top biz usually drops. “For us that season, it was the reverse  We had our best season.“

How very interesting. The DVD of the 2012 show, which I just reviewed, a few scrolls down, with high marks —  might that show have been a big part of the reason?   I did not ask Jim. 

Jim’s reports that Culpepper & Merriweather Circus, which now employs him, had a good season.

          The Peterson Peanut Test

I am really stretching it here by making a good sign of the fact that,  before the end of the Kelly Miller season just passed, per John II in his note to me,“Petersen Peanut Co ran out of peanuts. So, no nuts." He always enclosed, with his new DVD, a package of Peterson's finest. 

Somewhere, somehow, someway, there are evidently still hordes of people with a lingering yen for the common peanut.  But not the sparse crowds who turned out to see Kelly Miller in 2016.  When I asked Brenda Rawls about how the year had been, by phone  — I had called to see how I could send JRN II a thank you note, Brenda answered with a long sigh. “This was a down year”.

And then she added, with a good Hugo Byrd Chirp. “But, we’re going out!”

Read Jim Royal’s full missive in the coming weeks, right here.

Here are some Kelly Miller photos ...





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