BWW Review: CIRCUS 1903 Has A Plethora of Family-Friendly Acts Up Its Sleeve
Come one, come all to CIRCUS 1903-THE GOLDEN AGE OF CIRCUS that has landed in Chicago with plenty of razzle dazzle circus acts and exhilarating feats to make this show a treat for the whole family. Directed by Neil Dorward, and featuring two magnificently rendered elephant puppets from Significant Object, the artistic company that was also behind War Horse, CIRCUS 1903 is a feast for the eyes and recalls the delights of a classic traveling circus.
The performance I saw on Tuesday night featured eight entertaining acts (including those wondrous elephant puppets-the adult Queenie and the baby Peanut) that aim to please and captivate-and succeed in that mission. Ringmaster Willy Whipsnade (David Williamson) oversees the circus proceedings. And while Willy is a charming rather than sinister ringmaster as befitting this family-oriented show, much of his banter proves to be the weak point in CIRCUS 1903-particularly with some cringe-worthy lines that don't fall well on 2017 ears, as well as an awkward early bit focused on a flailing Side Show.
CIRCUS 1903 is at its best when the acts are left to speak for themselves. Mervyn Millar and Tracy Waller's puppet designs have an incredible lifelike quality, especially the animated baby Peanut. The human acts are equally dazzling. Contortionist Senayet Asefa Amare astounds with her movements and seemingly inhuman twists of her body. Alejandro and Ricardo Rossi perform a wholly unique act of "foot juggling" as one uses his feet as a pedestal to balance the other as he engages in a series of leaps and similar tricks. Francois Borie supplies an ever more intriguing juggling act-by the end, he had attempted seven juggling clubs. Johan and Jonatan Lopez along with Maria Jose Pontigo have a jaw-dropping highwire act.
And while all the circus acts are delightful, perhaps none is more magnificent than Elena Gatilova's utterly breathtaking aerial performance. The circus is a noisy place, but Gatilova's act is one of pure grace and quiet beauty-it's a masterful display of artistry and strength that steals the show.
CIRCUS 1903 provides an entrancing evening of entertainment that's suitable for all ages. The acts shown here are mesmerizing and magical, as befitting the atmosphere of the circus.
CIRCUS 1903 plays Broadway In Chicago's Oriental Theatre through Sunday, March 26. Tickets are $16-$80. For more information, visit BroadwayInChicago.com.
Photo Credit: Mark Turner