OFF BROADWAY REVIEW
“Dream Big” is the theme for this season’s ever-welcome edition of The Big Apple Circus, which has pitched its 1,619-seat tent at Damrosch Park through the year’s-end holidays.
As usual, the show is created for little kids, so the comedy is elementary and the animal acts are cuddly rather than scary. As usual, the roster of international performers is varied and mostly admirable.
My 6-year-old grand-niece, Siena (a first-grader at my boyhood alma mater, Kiel School in Kinnelon), appeared fairly tickled by the colorful proceedings.
Yet for me, at least, there’s a certain degree of joyfulness missing from this production.
That’s partly due to the fact that Barry Lubin, whose feisty clown, Grandma, has entertained youngsters and adults for the last 25 years, is retiring from The Big Apple Circus, if not from the clown business.
So if Grandma tickled you as a kid, here’s your last chance to catch the pearls-twirling old girl.
Lubin and the show’s makers do not make a big deal about Grandma’s farewell. The funniest bit offers Grandma stampeding around in cow drag. Otherwise Grandma trades spit-takes with one customer and does a ballroom bit to the Nat King Cole “Unforgettable” with somebody else before strolling off into an autumnal haze.
One wishes that Lubin might have bid goodbye with a best-of-Grandma retrospective, but perhaps seeing her stomp through some of those comical turns might be too nostalgic for everyone concerned.
Amiably hosting this edition is Jenna Robinson, portraying a dizzy though kindly millionaire with a red beehive who owns a dream machine. This Steampunk-style engine occasionally yields some of the acts, most notably Dmitry Chernov, a swift juggler sporting a blue sci-fi costume of reptilian design.
Other highlights include: Jenny Vidbel and a synchronized trio of beautiful black horses (her subsequent act with a porcupine, a pot-belly pig and a dog is cute but scarcely so dramatic); the rope-skipping and tumbling Shandong acrobatic troupe adeptly performing two contrasting routines; and Anna Volodko, a lithe Russian rope aerialist.
The comical team of Scott & Muriel are merely loud ‘n’ crazy rather than funny, while The Flying Cortes, a South American trapeze act, failed twice to achieve their fanciest mid-air feat at the show witnessed.
Artistic director Guillaume Dufresnoy, stage director-choreographer Renaud Doucet and production designer Andre Barbe have assembled some able performers, dressed them in fantastical costumes and pace their two-act show quickly. Unfortunately, the greenish bandstand setting, with its gaping mouth and a severed doll’s head topper, creepily suggests nightmares more than big dreams.