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Big Apple Circus goes back in time to entertain modern audiences

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Members of the Dalian Troupe perform acrobatic tricks on bikes routine at a matinee performance of Big Apple Circus' "Legendarium" show in Bridgewater, NJ on March 14th, 2013. Photo by Sam Foster
Members of the Dalian Troupe perform acrobatic tricks on bikes routine at a matinee performance of Big Apple Circus’ “Legendarium” show in Bridgewater, NJ on March 14th, 2013. Photo by Sam Foster

Although there were no flames, no human cannonball and no lions, tigers, or bears, the Big Apple Circus’s latest show “Legendarium” offered an abundance of “oohs and ahs” to the crowds who attended when it stopped at TD Bank Ballpark in Bridgewater, NJ February 28 to March 17.

The theme of the show took audience members back in time to the early days of the circus tradition in the late 1800s. Though modern audiences, especially college students, can be a tough crowd to please, having been raised on fast-paced video games and slick movies like the most recent James Bond flick, but the Big Apple was genuinely entertaining. It was captivating for everyone from broke college students looking for an affordable night out to kids tagging along with grandparents who were re-living their fondest childhood memories.

Upon entering, you were engulfed by the rich aroma of popcorn and cotton candy, which, along with hot dogs, water and other refreshments were offered at the refreshment stand. Everything at the stand was $4 or less. The biggest hits were souvenir glow sticks, circus-logoed t-shirts, stuffed animals and other memorabilia priced from $10 to $25.

The Big Apple features a 42-foot wide single ring beneath a blue tent spangled with red stars. The transportable tent, which accommodates 1,600 spectators, was set up in the red parking lot of Patriots Park Smaller than the three ring fiasco of Barnum & Bailey, the Big Apple is more intimate and less frenetic. Even those in the seats furthest back have a good view of the action because no seat is more than 50 feet from the center of the ring.

Legendarium was lead by Kennedy Kane, a former concessionaire, magician, fire-eater and clown with fifteen different circuses. He took the The Big Apple Circus ringmaster job this year. Wearing a colorful suit and sporting a white beard that covers his Santa Claus-like rosy cheeks, Kane used his deep voice to deliver cheesy jokes for kids and jokes thick with innuendo for the adults. After his introduction, the show quickly featured wacky half-masked clowns, a passionate animal trainer who got horses and dogs to dance, and troupe of tango dancers.

The Big Apple Circus is one of the only remaining modern circuses with a live band. The seven member band sits high above the ring and accompanies the various acts.

Princeton graduate Christina Gelsone and husband Seth Bloom play the Acrobuffos, Italian for “acrobat clowns.” They replaced beloved Barry Lubin aka Grandma the Clown after he retired from 25 years of performances in January 2012.

The Acrobuffos, who once appeared on The Late Show with David Letterman, stole the show in terms of laughter. They threw popcorn into the crowd and pulled audience members on stage to incorporate them into a scene where the clowns fight amongst each other for the affections of the innocent bystander.

The first act was acrobat Andrey Mantchev, a Bulgarian native ironically dressed in red, white and blue and nicknamed Uncle Sam. He has been with The Big Apple Circus since 1999 and took on the high-flying act this year. His aerial flips and turns made it seem like he’d been doing it forever.

Another favorite was Magdalen Island native Daniel Cyr, who performed inside a spinning aluminum wheel about six feet in diameter, called the Roue Cyr, that he created. His upper body strength earned him performances at major sporting events such as the closing ceremonies of the 2006 Winter Olympics and his invention is used in nightclubs around the world.

One of the most appealing performances came from Argentinian contortionist Elane Kraymer, 21, bent and twisted in unbelievable ways. Kraymer, a sixth generation circus performer told the VOICE, “I remember going to the Big Apple Circus with my father…I loved the show not only because it has got a storyline to it, but because it’s intimate and even if you’re sitting in the farthest seat you still feel close to the performers.”

Show tickets ranged from $25 for furthest mezzanine seats to $80 for ringside. The circus offered free parking across the street in a Target parking lot that was very convenient. Township police directed the crowd towards the tent.

After the two hour show and fifteen minute intermission, the audience of all ages gave performers a huge round of applause. The modern day version of yesterday’s circus appealed to all. Those still interested in seeing “Legendarium” can head up to Boston where it will be playing until May 12th.

See more photos of the  Big Apple Circus.

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