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Big Apple Circus Goes Back to Basics

I’ve been going to the Big Apple Circus for a long time, but it still came as a bit of a shock to realize that they are celebrating their 30th Anniversary this year. A circus is supposed to be a long-standing institution. It’s not supposed to be approximately the same age as me. How can I be older than a circus???

Fortunately, this fact didn’t penetrate until I was already sitting under the big top tonight, and it’s hard to feel old when you’re sitting in a striped tent and eating cotton candy. For their 30th Anniversary show, the circus has gone back to its roots. Over the past few years, it seemed like the success of Cirque du Soleil was giving The Big Apple Circus a serious identity crisis. The mood started to turn darker, and the acts got a bit weirder. But this year, the show is turning its back on all things bizarre and embracing the charm and simplicity of a classic circus. It wasn’t overly flashy, but it was really entertaining.

The show tonight was rough around the edges, but sometimes it was hard to tell whether or not that was intentional. On several occasions, performers needed a couple of tries to get it right. But it made the performances so much more real and believable. The performers acknowledged the mistakes with sheepish grins that seemed to say “this is really hard stuff – even we can’t pull it off every time.” No one seemed to mind; in fact, every second attempt made the audience go wild.

In the most amazing moment of the night, the Kovgar Group was performing an act on teeterboards, sending acrobats soaring to the top of the tent and landing on impossible targets. One acrobat was aiming for a chair on a pole about 20 feet high, but somewhere in all the flips and twists, he missed the seat and started to plummet. Unbelievably, the acrobats on the ground were ready for him, like they’d rehearsed this scenario a thousand times. They caught him (though the momentum knocked them all to the ground), and he jumped up, brushed himself off, then did it again perfectly.

My guess is that wasn’t part of the script, but it was unforgettable.

The Big Apple Circus just started their Boston run on March 29th, and they’ll be here until May 4. My kids, ages 4 and nearly 6 both loved it. The weeknight evening shows are considered “off-peak” and there are good deals to be found on the tickets. The show starts at 6:30, which allows enough time to start the evening at Quincy Market for an eclectic dinner (we had sushi and pizza) without pushing bedtime too late (the show was over before 9).

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