Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Back Friday is THREE DOLLAR DAY at Big Top Typewriter, Now in Living Color on Kindle! ...

-- Publishers Weekly

All Color Photos in Gorgeously Gripping Color!


Hurry!  Hurry to the Amazon midway!
 $3 Sale Ends When Black Friday Ends!

(This special offer will not be repeated for at least another year)

Saturday, November 18, 2017

A Little Apple Reception for the Big Apple Circus ... Tepid Reviews May Not Be Enough ... Can Nik and Grandma Fill the Seats?

Okay, here goes, I suppose.

Let’s face the music and still try dancing.  This morning in bed at the crack of dawn, I thought empty field in search of a circus, took to my budget tablet in hand and dug back into a current  topic on which, it seems, many of us are banking for the future of American Circus.

Were we over-banking?

I tried finding more reviews of the new for-profit Big Apple Circus.  I found a couple that read more like recycled press releases spun into bogus acclaim.  There is, front and center, the New York Times, which seems to be treating this circus like a patient on life support. But make no mistake, they’ve put out an operationally objective notice, the ambivalent reviewer granting enough hot words to build the fast-moving imagery (in streaming on-line quotes) of solid success. I said imagery, kids.

There are so few real -- or rigged -- reviews to draw from, that the BAC publicists have shrewdly made gold out of the Times review by quoting it in three bytes, the three separated by accolades, alleged or actual, from three other sources — Broadway Blog, one of the is-this-really-a-review? jobs; Time Out New York Kids, and The Wall Street Journal, except that there is no review to be found in  the WSJ, and I have dug deep.  If there were, I am sure that cyber courier Don Covington would have sent it out.

From the Times critic,  Alexis Solosky, came a subtly mixed notice that might be construed as damning them with faint praise.  She can bite, and she can sing.   “Unequivocally thrilling” she writes, of the Wallenda 7 high walk.  Those two words, as quoted on the BAC website, might pack a marketing wallop.  But, in the negative,  she’s not at all thrilled with Grandma, and she wonders if the 7-high does not fit the more intimate BAC style.  Overall, her notice leaves a feeling of something probably good enough but hardly great.    And for this, a Critics Pick from the Times?  Oh that’s right, the Grey Lady has BAC on life support.

It’s Ms. Solosky's summing up that wowed me, NOT

“Might as well take a bite.”

Might as well?

What are you trying to tell us?    You think the show is okay.  You think, if we have nothing better to do, then go?  That, in fact, is one of the meanings attached to those three lazy words.  I embarked on a major goggling blitz in an effort to avoid being accused of misquoting the quote.

In Oxford, the meaning of -- Hear Ye! -- might as well:  “Used to make an unenthusiastic suggestion”

That’s how it felt.  Mind you, I have no idea how this show would affect me.   But there are a few items that feel anti-climactic.  One is the quad, which is being reported in some quarters as if it regularly occurs. In fact, it is only attempted, and only at the night shows. And, far as I know, Ammed Tuniziani hardly ever makes it.  He did at least once.  And how stale the air feels around  this overblown hype.  We’ve already been there.  Done that.  Celebrated a milestone.  Were this to be the first quad ever, YES, do give it a ballyhoo. But it is not.  That legendary feat was accomplished when mid-air marvel Miguel Vazquez spun his way into circus history, and kept the magic spinning for over ten years.   Since then, now and then we hear the news “so and so just did it!” And then, nothing more.

Okay, is there any customer feedback on the internet?  Any Yelps?   I googled consumer reviews, only to find those leaving their hissing comments at the end of the Times review.  An avalanche of anger, just what the circus needs, right?  Either from  animal activists wanting every last dog out of the ring, or from the learned in circus affairs, pissed off at Ms. Solosky for what she dared to write, accusing her of being unqualified to appraise.   Oh, how easy it is to rile a circus fan or professional, they are so not accustomed to this. 

I wondered about Ms. Solosky, and so I dug.  And now I am  wondering if the critics of the critic would also have blasted her when she gave a warmly embracing  review to Big Apple Circus’s Grand Tour, two years back?  The upbeat notice filled me with good feelings, making me wish I had taken the tour.  Solosky’s  take on the new show leaves me unconvinced.

There is, I should fairly add, another review that seems like it could be real.  In an on-line website that nobody seems to know much about called Theatrepizzazz.com: “Fabulous acts.” But it's not quoted  on the BAC website.  Strikes me as much more credible than the one in Broadway blog.

I was finally able to  pull up the advance WSJ coverage, which came out before the show opened.  It considers a difficult road ahead for the new owners if they do go out on tour.  They claim to have  “locked” up dates in Atlanta, Baltimore and ‘DC in 2018.

A big problem, smartly advances Wayne McCary, is that outside of New York, Big Apple Circus is little known. And boy, how little known I could see, when, a few years back, a performance of the show, given before swaths of empty seats, was live-streamed into dozens of movie houses nation wide. In the multiplex where I sat, sat seven others.  In a PA house where he sat, wrote a fan, there was only one other person besides himself.  And in a small Utah town, when my brother and his wife took a chance on the show, at my suggestion, they were the only ones in the house! 
If the good flying doctor and his Sarasota partners-in-faith can bring off this revival and hit the road with gusto, I can think of another, much bigger circus name also deserving of a second act.  Can you name it?   Only a suggestion, you understand.

Might as well dream.

Friday, November 03, 2017

Big Top Batterings: BBC Asks, "Who Killed Ringling?" ... NY Critics Snub Big Apple Circus Opening .... No Animals Allowed Runs Ringling North II Off the Lot ... 350K for Cole Bros. Will Put Still-Dreaming Johnny Pugh Back on the Road ...

Update: 11//7:  The New York Times issued a rather ambivalent review today, forwarded to me by Lane Talburt, and it reads lackluster, but, amazingly, it gives the show a critics pick -- good news for the owners. I'll resume this topic  once enough time has passed for other possible reviews in the works to surface, and then discus them altogether.

Here on one of many empty or semi-empty circus lots, as I soldier on through the popcorn and lemonade pestilence battering our big tops into the trouping wounded, I have more news that’s not the greatest – to share or burden you with.   So, here it is, first draft direct:

About that headline up there, I got an e-mail from one Emily Williams, an indie producer of radio shows for the mighty BBC, asking me if I had time for a “quick chat” about “circus in America.”  Oh, how interesting, I thought, e-mailing back that I was flattered with the attention from across the Big Pond, and that such a quick chat would be fine with me – cracking that there is so little left of the American circus to chat about.

Was fun talking by phone the next day to the cheerfully inquisitive  Emily. Our chat was hardly quick, we skated over many subjects pertaining to the shocking fall of the circus arm of Feld Entertainment, she being particularly interested in its hard-to-believe ending.  When I asked her, mid way through an hour plus chat, what is your focus in this piece? Bluntly came the answer, “Who killed Ringling?” Oh, well of course, I can tell you that, and I gave her a blunt answer in two little words, and can you guess them? ...  Ms. Williams, who had taken in the final performance of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey getting lost over ice somewhere out of this world, was stymied by the complicated story line, but loved some of the same acts that I did ...  She has poked thorough the buzz of Sarasota town with tape recorder in hand, asking the same killer question to a number of the famous locals, getting in reply, everything from allusions to better circus stars in days gone by --- to anger with Kenneth Feld, seen in the photo. 

.... Emily was somewhere in France when she rang me up, and shared her delight at seeing so many circuses over there, even the smaller ones, presenting lots of animals.   When I told her — brace yourselves, kids – that any circus owner in the U.S. daring to present a single elephant on the bill is committing box office suicide, she seemed oddly perplexed. Why, she asked?  It’s the current environment over here, I tried to explain.  As for the Feld fold, she’s covered the usual suspects, such as Disney.  Even got a spinning answer from Nicole Feld, when BBC  was granted four Feld minutes for the interview.  Seems the Felds and Disney are doing just fine, and, no, Disney did not ask us to shove the circus shows in the dumpster.  Okay, Nicole.  Enough of that --  other than to say, this story will only get bigger as more people come out from behind their smiling I-love-all-circuses- faces, and start going public on what they really feel about Mr. Feld.

 The new show

Onto the Big Apple Circus saga, minus legit New York acclaim: Okay, I can’t hold back anymore on my total shock at having looked for reviews of the new, now for-profit edition at Lincoln center, and finding NONE in any of the major NY dailies ---Times, Post, or Daily News.  What in the xxx*! is going on back there?  All of the hoopla about New York’s own circus getting revived out of bankruptcy, returning to Lincoln Center, and NOTHING from the NY critics?  There is but one review, very good, in a paper I never heard of,  Theaterpizzazz.com, and so I’m waiting for more reviews before I make anything of it or any other review, if there are any more to come ...

Exotic ensemble action from foreign lands -- a critical Big Apple Circus component?  Seen here is  The Dosov Troupe from Russia,  stars of the show some years back.

So, let’s spin this critical New York snub into some conspiracy options: (1) the critics went out to the opening, last Sunday, did not like what they saw, and their pallid notices were held back by editors in deference to the pestilence that has visited BAC the last two hapless season.  (2) The critics are still waiting for comps from the new PR staff.  (3) There is bad blood between certain powers in the city and the new owners.  (4) The roller skating act.  (5) This is VERY strange.  Paul Binder, seen here, is as mum as the critics, and has been missing from his blog since Sept 1. You may recall how he lavished his passionate support on helping to save the show, raising nearly one million towards a two mil goal.   He showered words of good wishes on the new owners, upon learning of their bid being accepted.    And then, the founder and the heart and soul of BAC  went silent.   Are there unseen forces of fate conspiring to link some of these elements into a subtle campaign to thwart the new big top bosses on the lot?  Have you a clue — are any of you, in fact, still reading me? ...

His Jumbo about to be run off the lots in all of Ohio and New York State,  John Ringling North II is outta here.

No Animals, No Johnny in the seats. Leaving New York for Hugo, in a rare interview, John Ringling North II, ruing big tops without animals, told NewsOK,  "That's not the circus I grew up in and not how I want to carry on."  He put Kelly Miller up for sale, the final straw being the state of Illinois  banning elephants from the ring.  He’s since sold the show to somebody, name not spelled out when I e-mailed him my curiosity.  One lingering thought: When clowns Steve Copeland and Ryan Combs left the show a few years back, a slow to ominous drop in North’s promising showmanship began.  But I still regret this sad end to the House of Ringling, same fateful season as when the  House of Feld gave up.   Anybody still with me deserves some feel-good news. A dream floated for another season that may never come to be.  Here comes a bright shining star of hope ...

John Pugh’s passion resurfaces.  What heart I took in the Cole Bros. Face Book page sent to me by Barry Lipton.  There, John is back on his feet, feeling the faith, hearing the distant blast of brassy trumpet and hammering drum, wanting to, somehow, someway, go back on the road again.  Don’t you just love this guy?  Says he, hoping to raise $350K in donations by the end of this month: "We deeply thank you for your kind consideration, and for helping to keep the 'Magic of the Circus' alive for children of all ages!".... Now, maybe, since Mr. Feld has removed himself from the red wagon, with all his billions to spend, he might kindly dole out a little chump change to those struggling U.S. circuses (of proven merit) fighting to face another season and carry on ...

 Here’s another idea for the nicest showman under the big top:  JOHN, CALL PAUL!   Yes, Paul, as in Binder.  Maybe he can give you some inside tips on raising funds for your goal.  The great ones never stop dreaming, and so, suddenly I tell myself, this is the perfect way to end this end-of-the-line post ... Anybody out there still reading me? Hey, without a lot to stand on (a"lot," as in a field, a path of weeds, an abandoned graveyard, a shopping mall), at least we can -- no no, I better not go there.

And that’s a wobbly wrap on this sinking spot.....Gotta get this one posted before those New York critics come through and put mud on my face.    Isn't this exciting in some odd ball way???