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Big Apple Circus Welcomes New Ringmaster, Return of Grandma


The search is over! Producers Big Top Works have announced that Ty McFarlan will be the new ringmaster for the 40th Anniversary season of the BIG APPLE CIRCUS.

It was also announced that McFarlan, who has extensive experience as a ringmaster including several years with Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus, will be joined by fan favorite Grandma (performed by Barry Lubin), who makes her triumphant return after a five-year absence.

McFarlan and Grandma join the previously announced headliner Nik Wallenda, the legendary high wire walker and ten-time world record-holding daredevil, who will perform the seven-man pyramid with his family - a feat never before seen under the big top.

BIG APPLE CIRCUS proudly returns to its long-time home at Lincoln Center's Damrosch Park from October 26, 2017 - January 7, 2018 and will be followed by a national tour.

No stranger to the big top, McFarlan served as ringmaster with Ringling Brothers for four years. He credits his thirteen-year tenure as an officer in the Army National Guard and a strict 'military brat" upbringing with preparing him for the job of the evanescent emcee of the big top. After graduating from the University of South Carolina with a degree in criminal justice, McFarlan followed his heart into a theatrical career that included theatre, TV, films, and eventually a stint with a national theater group that lead him to where he truly belongs - the circus.

"There's nothing quite like the rich history and family atmosphere that comes with a circus," says Ringmaster Mcfarlan. "When you think about it, few things in America have more tradition than the circus, which predates baseball, apple pie and Coca Cola! I'm so honored to be able to join one of New York's greatest traditions and to share this experience with my new BIG APPLE CIRCUS family."

For 25 seasons, Grandma was an iconic staple of BIG APPLE CIRCUS. A member of the Clown Hall of Fame and the Sarasota Ring of Fame (the highest honor in American Circus), Lubin could not be more ecstatic to be returning to the Big Top after performing across Europe and the US. Aside from being widely known as the face of Big Apple Circus, Lubin has enjoyed a career performing and directing with Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey, numerous top circuses in the European market, and has developed shows for Nickelodeon, MTV, CBS, Sea World, Disneyland and Disneyworld.

"I'm over the moon to be re-joining one of New York's most beloved organizations," Lubin says. "There's nothing like the BIG APPLE CIRCUS, and I can't wait to bring Grandma's old tricks - along with some fresh new material - to the shiny new BIG APPLE CIRCUS and their fantastic audience that I know and love."

Big Top Works, an affiliate of Compass Partners LLC, became the new owners of BIG APPLE CIRCUS on February 14, 2017 following a live auction and approval from the Board of Directors. Big Top Works is comprised of Compass Partners managing partners Richard Perlman, Jim Price and Barry Salzman (who is the lead partner on the Big Apple Circus venture), as well as industry veteran Larry Solheim - who has a 30-plus year career working on and general managing circuses including BIG APPLE CIRCUS's 2015-16 season - and Neil Kahanovitz, a renowned spine surgeon, theatrical producer, and former circus performer. The new producers share a passion for, and history with, the circus arts and are building a sustainable business plan that will revitalize the BIG APPLE CIRCUS while also honoring the legacy of its 40-year history. In addition to exceptional programing, Big Top Works is committed to maintaining BIG APPLE CIRCUS's established community outreach programs including the Circus of the Senses, Autism performances and Circus for All - in New York City and on tour in the 2017-18 Season.

The BIG APPLE CIRCUS was founded in the summer of 1977 by circus performers Paul Binder and Michael Christensen, with a mission to present authentic and thrilling circus arts, in the intimacy of the one-ring Big Top, for audiences of all incomes. By 1979 the Circus was generating enough money to fund two Circus Arts Schools and in 1983, launched its first tour. Throughout its 40-year run, BIG APPLE CIRCUS distinguished themselves by offering many community outreach programs including providing free tickets to underprivileged children and underserved schools.

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Tyron 'Ty" McFarlan credits his 13-year tenure as an officer in the Army National Guard and a strict 'military brat" upbringing with preparing him to be a ringmaster with the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus and the emcee of the Greatest Show on Earth. He graduated from University of South Carolina with a degree in criminal justice and then followed his heart into a theatrical career that included local theatre, TV, films and finally a stint with a national theater group, ultimately leading to his dream job as he became the 34th ringmaster in Ringling Bros.' 138-year history.

Ty says that besides the thrill of performing live, the things he likes most about circus life are its family atmosphere and rich history. 'When you think about, few things in America have more tradition than the circus which predates baseball, apple pie and Coca Cola."

Ty has also tried his hand at acting as he can be seen as a recurring actor on Warner Bros.' long running television series "One Tree Hill" where he plays a character named Charlie. He also has landed an episode on one of America's favorite shows "Army Wives" on the Lifetime network where he can be seen playing the character known as Paul Broman.

Although Ty enjoys and plans to continue acting on the silver screen and performing under the big top, he also plans to pursue his passion for pattern-making and clothing design. He hopes that his fresh spin on cutting edge fashion and movable fabrics will appeal to the "on the move" athlete and modern day dare devil the world over.

ABOUT Barry Lubin

Barry Mark Lubin was born at Atlantic City Hospital in Atlantic City, New Jersey on July 3, 1952. His alter ego, Grandma was born on January 1, 1975 in Venice, Florida. Barry lived in Ventnor, New Jersey until attending Emerson College in Boston from 1970 to 1973, completing three years before taking a year off to try to figure out what to do with his life. Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Clown College auditions in Boston in the spring of 1974 changed his direction entirely.

Barry has enjoyed a professional relationship with Nickelodeon Networks co-creating, starring in, and executive producing two television pilots while partnering with renowned director, Yvette Kaplan. Barry developed and directed comedy segments for MTV, CBS's Circus of the Stars, and many other projects both live and in television. Barry directed many routines for Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey's touring units, for BIG APPLE CIRCUS, Sea World of Florida, Disneyland and Disneyworld, Clown College, and many others. Barry was recently featured in the PBS mini-series, "Circus," which chronicled a year on the road with the BIG APPLE CIRCUS ( Barry has directed numerous shows for BIG APPLE CIRCUS outside the Big Top Touring Unit.

Barry enjoyed 5 seasons traveling with Ringling, a three year stand-up comedy stint in San Diego, Los Angeles, Boston, and New York, 25 seasons with New York's famed one ring circus, BIG APPLE CIRCUS where he became the "Face of the Big Apple Circus," and numerous other appearances around the world. Barry has continued to bring Grandma to audiences in theaters, on television, in Festivals, and in other circuses in America, Europe, Asia, and Oceania. He starred in "Stars en Der Manege" which was broadcast in 8 European markets, Circo Massimo in Italy two times, and numerous other international television appearances. In the US he has appeared on "Prime Time Live," on the national broadcasts of the morning programs on NBC, CBS, and ABC, on PBS's "Evening at Pops," on "Late Night with David Letterman" 4 times, was featured on PBS's mini-series, "Circus" produced by Show of Force, and many others.

Barry was inducted into the International Clown Hall of Fame in 2002, and the Sarasota Ring of Fame in 2012, the highest honor in American Circus. He received the Lou Jacobs Lifetime Achievement Award in 2007. He has appeared in the International Circus Festival of Monte Carlo twice, the only American clown to have received this honor. He has also appeared in the International Circus Festivals in Hungary, in Izhevsk and Moscow, Russia. He is one of only two American clowns to appear in the 80 year history of prestigious Wintercirckus of Circus Krone in Munich where he was named, "The World's Funniest Grandma." He was named only the 5th Legend of the Parade Award in the 75 year history of Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, where he was a featured character in 15 appearances both live and on NBC.

Barry is presently writing his memoirs about his remarkable life both in and outside the magical world of the circus.


Compass Partners LLC ("Compass Partners"), is a Sarasota-based merchant banking and advisory firm that specializes in middle market companies and corporate restructuring. Founded by Richard Perlman in 1995, Compass Partners has had a successful track record revitalizing and growing a number of businesses across a wide range of sectors, from food equipment to healthcare services. In addition to Perlman, Compass Partners includes Jim Price and Barry Salzman, who is the lead partner on the BIG APPLE CIRCUS Big Apple Circus venture. Big Top Works, LLC ("Big Top"), is the latest affiliate of Compass Partners and is the official owner of the BIG APPLE CIRCUS. In addition to Compass, Big Top is comprised of a team of investors who share a common passion for the circus arts including Neil Kahanovitz, an orthopedic surgeon, theatrical producer and former circus performer, and Larry Solheim, a 30-year circus veteran.


As a child, when asked what he wanted to be when he grew up, the answer never changed, "an orthopedic surgeon and a circus performer." He achieved both dreams. While attending medical school, Kahanovitz took a leave of absence to perform in the comedy trampoline act and later as an aerialist in circuses across the country. Once he graduated, Kahanovitz went on to a distinguished career in the medical field. He has been published in over 50 articles in scientific journals, written about spinal disorders in eleven medical textbooks and published a book on the care and treatment of low back pain. He has served as President of the North American Spine Society and has received the prestigious Volvo Award for Low Back Pain Research, as well as a Commendation from The United States House Physician's Office for his care and surgery performed on members of the United States Supreme Court and Congress. He was also awarded one of the Soviet Union's most prestigious civilian honors, The Order of The Supreme Soviet Medal of Personal Courage, for organizing relief efforts following a devastating earthquake in Armenia. Despite the success of his medical career, his show business interests resurfaced in the late 1990's. He has since produced plays and musicals on Broadway, in London's West End, Chicago, Los Angeles and Off-Broadway. He is thrilled to bring the BIG APPLE CIRCUS to its rightful place among the most cherished New York City cultural icons. And for a chance to run away with the circus. Not once, but twice!


A proud veteran, Solheim has worked in the travelling entertainment field - as a performing artist, composer/arranger, conductor, educator and, most notably, a production manager - for over 35 years. Most recently, he was the Vice President and General Manager for BIG APPLE CIRCUS, brought in to oversee the touring unit and identify the issues responsible for its declining financial situation. As General Manager, Solheim oversaw the circus' 17-million-dollar operational budget, managed and optimized all elements of the touring operations, including its 150+ team members, and coordinated research and communications with all corporate departments and directors. Prior to the BIG APPLE CIRCUS, Solheim worked for TZ Productions as Musical Director and General Manager for 26 years, where he coordinated and managed performances in up to 70 cities per year (45 building venues and 25 tent venues).

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