Bellobration at the United Center

I was in Chicago for the weekend for a family function, and thought I’d check out the Bello-bration. It’s the Red Show– and I hadn’t seen it when it was on the East Coast, so I was glad I got the opportunity. I saw it today (last day of the stand in Chicago– we went to the 1 pm performance.

The pre-show “All-Access Pre-Show” was hosted by clown Leo Acton. Leo is a graduate of Clown College from 1996. I was mostly astonished, because this is the first time that I’ve seen a Ringling Clown with his own facial hair. Granted the show had a 1970’s feel, but I was pretty amazed. This would not have been allowed when I was at Clown College.

Looking around, a lot of the clowns had their own hair–less wigs than I remember. I wondered if maybe it’s because a lot of the clowns are no longer Clown College grads. (But it turns out Leo Acton is– I guess there’s been a change of policy) A couple of the costumes wouldn’t have passed muster back in the day.

In general the pre-show was pretty good– the clowns did a variation on Dead and Alive with a lot of knockabout, there was a painting elephant, some hula-hooping, a great trampolining bit by a Russian clown named Alex, and a lot of clowns doing Meet and Greet. The Meet and Greet was a little lame– standing in back of someone and making fun of them behind their back. I know that 13 shows a week gets a little hard to be original, but I thought it could have gone better. (I did get made fun of, but didn’t introduce myself– I played with the guy, and once he saw I was alive, he seemed to lose interest.)

The pre-show clown bit (with a nice little clown car used by Leo Acton again) was a Campfire Marshmallows advertisement basically– and not very funny. Something else that didn’t quite fly from a clown perspective was the group piece “Dancing with the Clowns.” It started off okay, but didn’t go anywhere relatively slowly. The ending blowoff (an acrobatic dancer who is much better than the bad dancers) wasn’t particularly strong. Good bendover routine with one clown playing a couple as a bendover.

Once the show started, Bello is really the star. He falls in love with the aerialist, and spends the show going from act to act trying to get her to notice him. It’s a good idea, and it’s done well. The highlight was when Bello and the aerialist are up on twin sway poles, and he gets a kiss from her– the whole spec turns into a Bello-bration, along with everybody including elephants, dogs, and the circus band, sporting Bello’s blonde hair. It was Being John Malkovich for Bello, and very funny.

The second act was less strong, and the pretense of his love for the aerialist went away. Bello did a great act with the Wheel of Danger (it split into two side-by-side at one point– I had never seen that!) And the show ended with the Human Cannonball– very impressive, but oh so fleeting.

There were a bunch of good video gags in the beginning of the show– Bello stuck in the humoungous television monitor and trying to get out. It was so clearly not live, and done a little too fast– as if they were saying– I know you are used to speeded up cartoons– here you go! I enjoyed them, nevertheless

Overall it was a lot of entertainment, although once we added the “Convenience Charge” It was $30 a ticket.) It was a great night out though.

Find out more about the Ringling Red Show and the clowns mentioned by visiting their websites listed below.

RINGLING RED SHOW: http://ringling.com/

BELLO NOCK: http://www.bellonock.com

LEO ACTON: Leo Acton’s Myspace Page

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