The Little Circus That Could ... Highest Rated of Them All on Yelp

The Little Circus That Could ... Highest Rated of Them All on Yelp
Currently Reigning Champion at 4-1/2 Stars, Zoppe Family Circus Wins the Crowds with Heart-Warming Tradition

Monday, September 21, 2015

Is that Bette Davis in the Jomar?

John Ringling North, to her right, thrived on entertaining famous guests late night in his private car on the circus train.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Shrine Dallas Producer Nixes Wild Animals, Citing Modern Attitudes; Critics Claim a Conflict with Animal Suppliers is Really Why

NewsFix out of Dallas was none to happy when Shrine Circus producer and operator of Fun Time Shows, Bill Cunningham,  announced that, henceforth, his show will no longer contain wild animals.  He stressed getting in step with changing public attitudes over this increasingly contentious issue.

According to the report, several Shriners were not pleased with the decision.

Cunningham's reasoned stand, published in the current issue of Circus Report, states  "There has been a rapid mood shift in public sentiment."  Shrine circuses, he believes, need to implement a  "model of circus entertainment that is in alignment with today's modern families and can help sustain the Shrine Circus for future generations."

He said his show will continue presenting dog and horse acts.  But according to NewsFix, at the three-ring circus in Dallas in early September,  "there wasn't a single animal in sight."

Cunningham told NewsFix, "No lions, no tigers, no elephants. Our stars are the human performers that  are willing participate and dazzle our audiences."

He sees corporate funding, down in recent years, in time rebounding.

Countered Dallas Shrine president Doug Terranova,   "If he doesn't want to include animals, that's fine. But it's very disingenuous for him to use PETA as a ploy when the simple fact is he's had an ongoing battle with the animal suppliers.”

A very interesting story.  The ongoing  battle is sure to escalate in the wake of Ringling-Barnum about to retire its elephant force from the spangled parade.


Monday, September 14, 2015

At Circus Vargas, Alex Acero Mines Clowning Gold

Who is he, this scampering little rascal of mischief currently holding court at Circus Vargas named Alex Acero?  Whomever he is, in his best moments — wish there had been more — I thought I was watching about the best damn circus clown in America.  At the moment. 

Big Apple, anybody back there listening?

During a full and fabulous trampoline workout against a high wall, Acero worms his way into the routine like a sly invading pixie  —  grabbing audience attention with amusing  body animations laterally and off angle — his legs and arms twirling like those of a Warner Bros. carton character.  

Such a perfect pleasure!  So unexpected!   How I wish I could have seen more of him, and him alone in the ring, instead of his recurring excursions into the house to recruit volunteers for another you-know-what.  

Back a little later, after being run out of the ring by show host Jon Weiss,  Acero steals another moment atop the ring curb, taking a tiny little hoop in hand and spinning it around the tip of his pointed hair extension, itself resembling the protruding bow of a ship.    Loved it.  Pure genius.

Bello, you've got competition!

His one big misstep is to insert his acrobat talents, sans comedy, into the opening of the flying trapeze display.  The clown disappears from view.  It would be like your favorite comedian coming back between monologues to seriously recite Shakespeare.  Or the Bible.  And clearly not for laughs.

And then, it dawned on me. I think I saw this Acero a few years back on Carson & Barnes,  and didn’t think much, blame it on his soon spending more time with audience volunteers.  He does here at Vargas, too, but before those excursion bloom into humdrum filler, I witnessed a a world class funny face at work. The above picture is from Alex's C&B days.   

Give me a circus in which Alex Acero is ordered to say out of the audience. To stay put in the ring.  He is a ton funnier on his own.  Know what might happen?  The audience might get a ton larger.

Anything wrong with that?

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

Big Apple Circus in Meltdown? Show Owed Boston Big Time at End of Date ... Turmoil at the Top ... A Short Season Ahead Rumored ... PR Vets Dien and Thurston Out ...

 --- rang a headline in The Boston Globe last March.  Overdue rent and other costs cited.

Okay, now that I’ve got your attention, are all seven of my visitors present?  Okay, let’s go.  Call this post How to Run a Circus Into the Ground, Big Apple Style.

This one was pilot-lit by Don Covinton, in response to my post below, e-mailing me that the show  "had to cut its staff significantly to survive."  Gone, as one troubling result, are long-time publicists Joel Dien and Phil Thurston

A shock upon hearing that. And yet, I should not be so surprised.  The show has apparently displayed a particular ability in recent seasons to fail in thrilling the customer. More of this as we go on.  Some random  thoughts:

* Declining patronage.  Show continues to cut back on personnel and dates.  Big Apple has long been rumored to be on the brink of don’t-say-it, one source for this dire scenario being retired founder Paul Binder himself.

* Ineffectual showmanship, two editions in a row.  I saw them both — the first in New York, the latest on the big screen at a movie house near where I live, last November.  Some good acts, a few terrific, but the wavering direction failed to achieve dynamic pacing and  power.  Some of the blame must fall on new artistic directer Guillaume Dufresnoy, whose initial offerings included the brilliant Dance On!  

* Thus, this voluntary Memo to BAC: Stick to dance directors, avoid theatre types.  I feared that Dufresnoy might steer the show in a more Cirque-like direction.  The theatre-ness in this last season's opus seemed to slow down the show, at times, to a near standstill.  Maybe in Paris.  Not in Paris, Texas.

* French clowning.  It may make some laugh.  Most of us, beyond the obligatory giggle to show respect, grow tired of it fast.

* Bloated bureaucracy in Brooklyn. My guess:  Way too large a non--performing payroll.  

* A Void in the Center:  Who is in charge back there? An executive-go-round that suggests a TV reality show in the making promises only never to settle upon any particular CEO.  In recent years, the  names of Dunning and Berger and Stirrip have, in succession,  held the highest post.  Now there is Will Maitland Weiss.  The board of directors numbers a staggering forty people.  Among them, I can imagine a million ways to peal an apple down to a dead core.

* The crutch of charity:  When you overplay this hand (the Clown Care Unit, and now Autism), you risk looking like a charity case yourself.  Not a pretty picture.

Death on demand?

Let’s be fair, Big Apple Circus is not the only show struggling to pull in crowds, but I can't imagine any other American circus out there needing one-fourth the Big Apple operating budget to say on the road.  

Next: Where does Paul Binder fit into all this? 

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

Big Apple Circus Goes on a Grand Tour, 1920s Style

On the Big Apple Circus website, general information of what is to come for the new season, to kick off as usual at Lincoln Center.

Oddly missing are actual names of the acts.

I find the production concept quite promising.

THE GRAND TOUR is a circus extravaganza set in the 1920s and featuring acts from the four corners of the globe. Ships, trains, automobiles, and airplanes will serve as the backdrop for breathtaking acts of wonder, accompanied by the seven-piece Big Apple Circus Band playing live at each of more than 200 performances. Acts will include clowns, jugglers, acrobats, and aerialists, from Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, and North and South America, as well as domestic and rescue animals, all creating performances that will leave audiences smiling and cheering.