Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Brit Big Tops Draw Long Lines ... Shrine Circuses Stay True ... Big Apple Circus Wins Another Tmes’ Valentine Review .... Ringling’s Spectacular Roll- Out Spectacularly Ignored ... Fake Animal Acts on the Rise ...

Let me whistle this one in by raising a few heart-warming photos on my midway, sent our way by my UK connection, Sir Douglas of McPherson, in reply to my asking him about the scene over there in 2023.  Take a look.  

Big Kid Circus, at their last stop for the season, last month in Glasgow

Zippos circus last summer

     HOW DO YOU FEEL seeing long lines at a circus? It always excites me, especially when I am in one,  to the point of a mild panic: Will I get in before the tent sells out?? Only once did this trauma test my well being, on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood where Circus Vargas had wisely raised its tent. I did get in, and enjoyed the pristine novelty of watching the show with a full house.

     AND ONLY TWICE was I actually turned away at the ticket counters, by the Moscow Circus in Oakland in 1967, and Vargas, circa 1986, then tenting over the parking lot of the Hollywood Bowl. About 10 minutes before showtime,  I  hurled myself off a greyhound bus on Highland, returning from the Bay Area, and raced across the street, up a ticket vacant window. “Sorry, sold out”

    BIG APPLE CIRCUS'S STRUGGLE to go beyond Lincoln Center continues, and suggests the show is not making sufficient profits anymore to hit the road. Current opus features Germany’s Circus Theater Roncalli, some of its acts in video teases quite impressive. Long lines do not seem to be forming.  They threw out 50% off tickets over the black Friday weekend and are pushing other discounts.  Inexplicably, they have failed to draw major reviews outside of their number one fan, The New York Times, which has become The White Tops of Gotham circus reviewing. 

     ANOTHER VALENTINE CRITIC'S PICK from the Times’ Alexis Soloski. She  had nice things to say about everybody. She did miss Big Apple’s dogs and cat acts, and raised a slight quibble over the second act beginning “with a puzzling routine” of four fake polar bears (costumed performers). Left discretely uncharmed was she.  Add the Roncalli  bears to new Ringling’s robotic dog, and do we have a trend smacking of spineless showmanship?  This merits an academic study. PETA PhDs could have a field day.  

     GREATEST COMEBACK FIZZLE ON EARTH? Never did I imagine: The most spectacular thing about the return of the circus that dare not speak its name, is how spectacularly ignored it has been by big media and newspapers. On national TV, have YOU ever seen even a mention of it: They may be doing boffo biz, for all I know.. Today I thought I spotted a review in the Chicago Tribune, only to find a feature story that felt like a hand out, talking up the show’s return, with Kenneth Feld being quoted. Where is Chris Jones, who regularly reviews circus for the Tribune? I would love to read his take on the show.. 

     SHRINE CIRCUS RENAISSANCE?   The temples that still produce real circus shows are forcing the public to re-think its ambivalence about real circus, forcing them to make their feedings known, to wit this, from one of only three Yelp reviews, all negative,  dated Nov. 16, from Cindy I. in Co, Co:

  "All we saw was acrobats swinging back and forth, the worst CLOWN show ever, and a fake robot dog. I wish I had my money back. The tickets were not worth the price we paid and the show was a pathetic two ring mess. Our Shriners circus is way better!"

     YES, YOU STILL DO have the Shrine Circus, those of you lucky enough to be near one.  I tip my hat to the fearless men in red  who have stayed the course.  In their favor, they have strong ties to the community and enjoy the respect of all for their children’s hospitals.  If anybody knows what can delight a child, surely it would be a Shriner.

I have more of that thread in mind.  But for now, I am turning off my Intel brain implant to take a fake break.

Big pig after my heart, at Hamid Shrine Circus.

Saturday, November 11, 2023

You Tube Impromptu: From Classic Pfening to Classic Old Circus Ringling ... You Never Know What Next May Come Your Way ...

 Since I now have You Tube on my flat screen, it so much more enjoyable to watch movies, but the incessant ads kept me away.  I wanted to see if they had Oklahoma, they do, and many other first rate movie musicals or adaptations from Broadway. So I was elated to start shelling out  $13.00 a month in order to watch EVERYTHING without ads. Which means there are a great many films I can watch that I will no longer be able to either from my local video store, about to close, or from the already closed Netflix. How I miss its red envelopes coming through the mail.

Last night I ran into a video of Fred Pfening giving a presentation on the history of Sells Bros Circus to a group of people in what I thought was a CHS convention but, I think was a local group.  Very enjoyable learning more about the Sells Bros.  They had what must have been one of the longest big tops ever raised -- even longer than old classic early Vargas under a February rain in Northern California (LOL)

And then the words: THE BEST CIRCUS appeared.  Which might that be?  Came a You Tube showing a group of highly trained, highly accomplished elephants executing an impressively smooth series of various maneuvers to the most fantastic score, more like a soundscape.  A quiet score, sounding like what one of my favorite musicians, Paul Hardcastle, could have composed.  The entry says six years ago, which would mark the last "circus" edition of Ringling, but I do not recall hearing anything like that music when I saw the show the year before. ??? You Tube editing?

Tonight I am going to watch Oklahoma with my new flick friend, You Tube 

Wednesday, November 08, 2023

The "Lamest Show on Earth"? Yelp Pans New Ringling ... Major Media Ignores ... Shriners Come Out Shinning ...

 UPDATE, 11.17.23Where are the media or newspaper reviews?   I comb cyberspace and still find nothing.  What I find are advance press releases about the show, routinely printed in the papers.  They have now played in some major cities, and nothing. I would have thought that Chad Jones of the Chicago Tribune, who routinely covers circus, would have done a deep dive on this one.  Might it be a somewhat traditional reluctance of newspapers in the U.S. to knock circus?  If you don't have anything good to say ...

Okay, I told myself this am, I  had better google "Greatest Show on Earth" and "reviews," for I like  to keep this blog true to the minute.

I could find no reviews in newspapers or major media.

What I did find so far is best reflected here in customer feedback, a mixture that leans toward acute discontent with the circus that dares not speak its name anymore.  And for the moment that is what I shall post:

More digging in and down later.


So far there are just three:

Melba P.
Chicago, IL
Nov 7, 2023

BORING!! Bring back the animals!

This was a subpar Disney performance at best.

I did enjoy the acrobats and highwire performances, though.

Photo of Go R.
Go R.
Brookfield, IL

Nov 4, 2023

This was such a waste of money. What happened?! This was more of a musical starring fake Tina Turner! Show was boring, light up toy, $36. A soda in a ringling cup. $15!!! Highway robbery!!!
Save your money, kids hated it. No animals! Can I get a refund?

Photo of Cindy I.
Cindy I.

Nov 5, 2023

Lamest show on earth!! No clowns and no animals made no fun for the kids! The "new approach to the circus" was not good enough to have the Ringling Brothers legacy! Don't waste your money on this, but go to a rodeo instead for great entertainment with animals and clowns and authentic danger!



2.0 star rating Anonymous from Houston, Texas


I was thinking Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus was the circus of all circuses. I was wrong. Arabia Shrine Circus was much bigger, had more and just seemed overall better, and it's a quarter of the price. I won't go to another Ringling Bros again.

1.0 star rating Merlotsmom from Bossier city La


All we saw was acrobats swinging back and forth, the worst CLOWN show ever, and a fake robot dog. I wish I had my money back. The tickets were not worth the price we paid and the show was a pathetic two ring mess. Our Shriners circus is way better!

Of course, this is a random sampling of what I could find.  Among the comments made at the end of  the Washington Post story, which I posted for a few days, there was more balance between good and bad. One thing is sure, the strange Ringling facelift may unintentionally spur a national debate favoring the return of sanity to the makeup of a circus program.

Given my trek recently to Zoppe Family Circus, I am not surprised when I observe  support for the domestic circus animal acts among even blue state adults.