by Bekah Caden
Full of whimsy and some of the most incredible skill you'll ever see, Circus 1903 revives a turn of the century tradition in splendor.
Replaced by fairs, festivals and theme parks, touring circuses are few and far between these days. Even the famous Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus announced that they'll be permanently closing in May after 146 years of performances. That's quite a legacy, and quite a blow to the industry. The increasing travel costs and changes in how we consume our entertainment are largely to blame.
Circus 1903 is quite clever in producing a fabulous show making great use of the space much smaller than your average Big Top. The elephants are gorgeous life-size puppets operated by the team of six puppeteers (Nyron Levy, Chris Milford, Daniel Fanning, Luke Chadwick-Jones, Henry Maynard and Jessica Spalis) each controlling a separate body part in fluid realism. The elephants aren't just props, they're characters with distinct personality.
Circuses require a longer attention span than what we're conditioned for in the digital age. Some of the individual acts feel a little too long with tricks being performed multiple times. This won't stop you from enjoying the show, but you'll probably be looking forward to intermission. Overall, the skill put into each performance was truly memorable.
Brothers Alejandro and Ricardo Rossi areFratelli Rossi, with their "foot juggling." A lightheartedness is added with the variety act of clowns Yevgeniy Dashkivskyy and Yefrem Bitkine as
Duo Flash. Johan and Jonatan Lopez with Maria Jose Pontigo make up
Los Lopez, a daring trifecta suspended on the highwire. Jumping and flipping on the large teeterboard are Artu Ivankovich, Petter Vatermark and AJ Saltalamacchia making up
The Flying Fins.
A crowd favorite was Senayet Asefa Amare as The Elastic Dislocationist. With bones like water, cringing groans and exclamations of amazement escaped the crowd as she
literally folded her body into a pretzel. Precarious on his balance board,
The Sensational Sozonov (Mikhail Sozonov) with his "Rola Bola" balancing act was another awe and anxiety inducer.
Other soloists include The Great Gaston (Francois Borie), introduced as having "...some of the fastest hands in the world," and dazzles not only with his juggling but also with his showmanship as he's running, smiling and laughing with the crowd. There's the ethereal
Lucky Moon (Elena Gatilova) dancing on an aerial hoop, and
The Cycling Cyclone (Florian Blumel), an artistic cyclist who makes biking with no hands look like a walk in the park.
My friend's personal favorite was the acrobatic Anny Laplante and Andrei Kalesnikau as Les Incredibles. Their intimacy and trust is performance perfection as Laplante flips through the air guided by Kalesnikau's sure hands.
Making intermittent appearances is our Ringmaster - Willy Whipsnade. With a grandiose stage presence and subtle adult humor, he elicits some of the strongest reactions from the crowd when he's joined on stage by several children and delightfully rolls with the surprises with perfect comedic timing.
Sprinkled throughout the production are elements of what circus life would've been like in 1903. We open with workers hammering large nails into the ground needed to support the Big Top, see into the performers' dressing rooms and watch the rambunctious baby elephant (nicknamed Peanut) during training. Sadly, these sneak peaks happen less often as the show continues. Interjecting a few more of these would've helped the sense of story that this variety of performing arts can lack.
Whatever the faults, you won't find anything like Circus 1903. Showing us what dedication and love of craft can yield, we're transported back in time to what used to be every child's dream- a magical day at the circus that's sure to delight your kids and the child within you.
Here for a limited engagement at the Hollywood Pantages so get your tickets quick!