Entertainment » Theatre

Barnum Bash

by Jackie Fender
Contributor
Wednesday Aug 22, 2012
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The performers and players of The Barnum Bast
The performers and players of The Barnum Bast  

The circus has a way of captivating audiences with the sheer whimsy and splendor of their presence. People young and old get a little twinkle in their eye when the circus is in town and for good reason. Where else can you take in the smells of popcorn and cotton candy and indulge in the sensory delight of clowns, sideshow acts and animals?

Nowhere, I tell you!

The Barnum Bash brought to you by the Ringling Brothers Circus continues the age old tradition boasting "The Best Show On Earth." And from the moment the red and white striped curtains rise you know you are in for a treat.

There is a clear favorite for the young ones involved: the animals. Exotic animal trainer Cathy Carden invokes squeals of delight from children, and perhaps some adults, when prompting camels and horses to gallop in unison, weaving between each other’s legs. Mid-show Carden works with a group of dogs that seem to really enjoy prancing, dancing, jumping and Congo-ing with each other. The animals are charming and succeed in captivating children. Bottoms plastered to the chairs, smiles plastered on their faces, those were some happy kids.

And then of course there were the Asian elephants. These magnificent beasts stunned the crowd with balancing acts that leave you watching in hushed excitement. The elephants are endearing in their demeanor, awe-inspiring in their presence and certainly the stars of the show. They say you save the best for last, so patience is a virtue if the largest mammal on the planet is what brought you to the show. While you catch a glimpse in the introduction, the elephants perform toward the end.

And fear not, parents, there are plenty of "oohs and aahs" for those not so easily amused by the animal kingdom. Duo Fusion displayed impressive strength and balancing with their risqué Tango dance. At the start of their performance tearing off bits of clothing to display muscle-baring costumes, I guess the tango can’t help but stay sexy, even at the circus.

Exotic animal trainer Cathy Carden invokes squeals of delight from children, and perhaps some adults, when prompting camels and horses to gallop in unison, weaving between each other’s legs.

The motorcycle globe and double wheel of steel captivate and terrify with gravity defying acts of courage that left me on the edge of my seat. "Don’t do it! Be Safe! Oh Geez," are things my maternal voice hollers from inside my head. It’s just not safe I tell you, but damn it’s entertaining.

The double bar acrobats, honestly, left something to be desired. Perhaps it was an off night, but they experienced several blunders falling from the bars as they made transitions and slipped from dismounts. I felt as though I was witnessing an amateur gymnast practice session. The troupe seemed out of place in "The Best Show On Earth." That doesn’t stand true for all of the acrobatic performances; most were an impressive display of pure skill.

Now for the humor, because let’s face it, what’s a circus without the clowns and laughs? In this case, the giggles came from untraditional sources like say a unicycle basketball troupe. They caused a ruckus with competitive shenanigans while showing off circus worthy skills. Unicycle? Check. Basketballs? Check. Shenanigans? Yup. Good clean fun on the court leaving some of the youth undoubtedly trying this at home with their own wheels.

The real highlight of the show, narrowly beating out the elephants, were Anton and Victor Franke. This father and son comedic duo from Russia portrayed a ringmaster and hipster magician-clown. The bespectacled duo’s antics engaged the audience and had you rooting for the underdog as Anton strived to impress Victor in an attempt to be accepted into the circus.

With each act intermission, Anton bound about invoking cheers and merriment, only to have Victor interrupt. Victor stops Anton cold in his tracks by a simple look and gesture for him to exit the stage. Though not a traditional clown, Anton’s silliness, brought to you in the most witty of manners, provided the comedic relief with some tricks up his sleeve hula-hooping, spinning and boxing his way into our hearts.

All in all, the Barnum Bash is a visual delight of magnificent and impressive talent that continues to captivate and delight audiences of all ages.

The Barnum Bash plays Pacific Northwest at the Comcast Arena in Everett, WA running from August 23-26, and at the Showare Center in Kent, WA running from August 31-September 3rd. For info or tickets, visit www.ringling.com.

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