John Ringling North II takes in a performance of the show during the 2011 season. How deep might he go into creative producing?
Knife juggling, gaucho dancing, wild animals in control, pirates on the lose, the "slide for life" and unprotected single trap daring-do promise, on paper, to up the nerve factor at next year's Kelly Miller Circus. Show is now in its Hugo barns, already prepping for the 2012 tour, expected to hit the grass -- or mud -- come February. This I infer from advance information sent my way courtesy of show's general manager Jim Royal. Thank you, Jim.
John Ringling North II's pet circus will sport a brand new big top next season, with "a completely different look," says Royal -- this one designed out of San Francisco by North's designing daughter Katherine, who operates Northbrook Design. As viewed in a photo, tent looks more spacious and roomy.
If the lineup looks a little slim and somewhat redundant on paper, yet the impact might be in the attack, and Kelly Miller requires of its returning performers new routines and novel twists. For example, long-time K-M juggler Raul Oliveras will be spinning objects through a new black light segment, as well as reprising his secondary stint, wind-up dog "Pinky," a perennial favorite with sponsors, according to Royal.
Armando Loyal signed to sustain his fine hold over three elephants. Five tigers from the former Casey McCoy act will be working a revamped repertoire to be hosted by Ryan Easley, marking his second season in the big cage. Show's central production splash in which a number of turns are cast is a pirate themed romp slated to feature knife juggling from Julia and Deya Rosales (new to the show), a slide for life, ensemble dancing and the five North Starlets. Carolyn Rice has a new dog act ready to go; the dogs will enter the tent on the SS "Salty Sea Dog." Sara Greene and Delena Fusco are crafting a cradle turn.
New faces also include smooth single trap diva Rebecca Ostroff, who appeared in the film Water for Elephants, the credit a natural talking point for the show's PR attack. Also new to the North ring will be the Fusco family's seven-person gaucho act. Clowns Steve Copeland and Ryan Combs are developing all-new entrees and walkarounds.
Production flourishes may add additional excitement. Norbert Fusco is adding dance steps to the aerial Starlets, while Carolyn Rice will choreograph for husband Mike's camel carousel, to which zebras have been added.
These various flourishes suggest a creative producer at work.
Although North's old buddie and musician from Ringling days, Captain "Lucky Eddie" Straeffer and his wife Vickie will be out next season on personal matters, the pattern of scoring which they established, tape recordings augmented by drums and percussion, will be followed, says Royal.
If there is detectable weakness here, it would seem to be a lack of acrobatic arts -- those power drives that set the human body into spinning whirling motion.
The impact of any performance, of course, rides as much on how everything is put together, fancied up in lights and costumes, packaged, scored, and paced -- as it does on a raw assemblage of performers. Exactly how John Ringling North II pulls his goodies out of the hat may well spell the difference between also-ran and take-note.
Optimistically, I consider North's personal imprint a promising work in progress.