You expect surprise and delight at a Big Apple Circus performance, but this year’s visit from the one-ring favorite has found the perfect mix of jaw-dropping feats and smile-inducing acts.
“Metamorphosis,” the title of this year’s show, is all about transformation, or in the words of Ringmaster John Kennedy Kane, “the power that turns the everyday into the extraordinary.” Director West Hyler has not only gathered an eclectic group of circus acts, he has created a pace for the show that starts out simple and builds to wonderful crescendos, at the end of each act, and also within individual acts. The opening number sets up the audience for what’s to come by introducing all the acts while building to a hilarious climax with a trampoline routine.
The applause barely dies down before Odbayasakh Dorjoo contorts herself into an impossibly small cube before being joined by a friend in a feat of bending that might make you decide to sit up straighter.
While the audience recovers from that routine, Ringmaster Kane provides some old-timey magic tricks, proving he has a way with animals as well. He is soon followed by Jenny Vidbel’s menagerie of animal performers, including a pig, goats, dogs, ponies, and even camels who take a turn around the ring.
Next up are the Anastasini Brothers, who perform an astonishing act in which one brother flips and somersaults, landing on the other brother’s upturned feet. The Anastasini Brothers’ act is followed by their parents, Giovanni Anastasini and Irene Espana, performing a balancing act while suspended high in the air. At one point Espana hangs at least 50 feet above the ring, held up only by the strength of one foot.
The second act includes a return of Vidbel’s animals for a “Living Carousel”; an impressive combination juggling and balancing act called a “Rolla Bolla” by Tatevik Seyranyan; an eye-popping quick-change act from the Smirnov Duo; and the return of the entire Anastasini family for a hypnotic demonstration of spinning “diabolos.” The climax of the second act is the Aniskin Troupe performing their elegant, glow-in-the-dark trapeze act.
Hyler creates wonderful transitions between acts, so that even as tarps are rolled out or nets are hung up, the audience never feels a pause in the action. Much of this is due to the musical talents of Francesco the Clown, who manages to bang out tunes on bells, frying pans, and even his jacket, not to mention getting the crowd to join in on a warm-up singalong.
The Big Apple Circus band, led by trumpeter Rob Slowik, never disappoints, but it gets added spice this year with the compositions of Jack Herrick, the artistic director of the Red Clay Ramblers, whose work has been featured in a variety of theatrical performances.
All in all, “Metamorphosis” proves Big Apple’s ability once again to transform audiences of all ages into rapt observers of circus magic.
Terry Byrne can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.