REVIEW: Ringling Red Show “Built To Amaze” (NY)
Every year, Ringling rewrites a brand new show, and then sends it off around the United States on a 2 year tour. This show has as its premise the idea of construction. Elephants in hard hats. Construction clown gags. Aerialists. Blue Prints. Front loaders. You get the idea.
The ending song of the show says:
“Ringling Brothers, Barnum, & Bailey,Welcome to the Circus Baby” and I feel like that summarizes the show. This was a great introduction to the circus.
— Stephanie Schwab (@stephanies) March 21, 2013
The show, as always, was chockful of amazing acts. Standout acts were the King Charles Unicycle Troupe, who do nearly everything the Harlem Globetrotters do, but on unicycles; tiger trainer Tabayara de Campos risking death with over 16 tigers in the cage, doing some amazing tricks; and two married hand-balancing couples Giovanni Perez & Virginia Tuells and Hector Gutierrez and Tatiana Colaquy doing some mind-blowing duo acrobatics where the woman is often the base. Also a standout was the youngest female cannonball ever, Elliana Grace, who is the daughter of Jessica Hentoff of Circus Harmony. She gets shot over 45 feet in the air and it’s just astounding how she does it.
The Cannonball ended the first act, and we’d seen so much great stuff we could have left then, but 15 minutes later, after the intermission, there was even more great entertainment, including daredevil antics on the Wheel of Death, an amazing display of acrobatics by the Negrey troupe on an 80 foot long sprung track, a fantastic Elephant act, a death-defying highwire routine, and a transparent Trampoline Tower, where 6 performers do synchronized trampolining that was so precise that two people that were different heights and weights were bouncing sideways at EXACTLY the same height.
I don’t want to neglect to mention the clowns (this is clownlink after all, not circus link! And as PT Barnum famously said, they are one of the pegs on which the circus hangs.) The show is headlined by Russian comedy duo Alex & Irina Emelin. Irina is from a famous animal training family, and they do a lot of very cool stunts, including wearing a coat of ferrets! They also have a poodle act, and a kind of strange magic act which involves bunnies and a snake. They do a pretty good job as the foremen to singing Ringmaster Andre McClain.
In addition there is a full complement of performers in clown alley. They do a couple of good gags, including a soap gag whose blow off is a clown loader dumping a passel of soap on the boss. They also do a kind of corporate clown car commercial, in which the clown car is an actual Ford SUV, with 12 clowns loaded inside. It didn’t really follow the structure of a clown car gag at all, but Ford was paying for it, I assume. The clowns did a fair amount of dancing and playing, but most of their work seems to be in the pre-show.
The plot gets a little weird in the middle, where suddenly (straight out of a Disney on ice playbook) there is a supposed competition to see who would be the better foreman, and it divides into boys vs. girls, and acts come out to do their part. What all that has to do with being a better foreman to build a circus– well, listen, it doesn’t. But it doesn’t matter. Fortunately, as I said in my post about Cirque du Soleil and their funky plot, we don’t come to the circus for the story. We come to be amazed, to be amused, and to be astonished. In all that, Ringling delivers.
(FAIR WARNING: While the acts are astonishing, and the circus is reasonably priced, you might also be astonished by the prices of things-concession prices are sky-high! $22 for a $3 light up toy! $12 for some spun cotton candy!) But hey, how many times do you go to the circus? (I go a lot, so I bring my own light up toy for my son)
There is a 1 hour pre-show before the starting time where you can meet some of the performers, including lots of clown walk around meet and greet and an elephant that paints pictures, but you have to get there extra early, as the Barclays has very strict security procedures– everybody gets wanded and searched on the way in.
Here’s the promotional video: