CIRCUS 1903The Golden Age of the Circus!
Dallas Summer Musicals
Director – Neil Dorward
Scenic Designer – Todd Edward Ivens
Lighting Designer—Paul Smith
Costume Designer – Angela Aaron
Puppets Designer—Mervyn Millar and Tracy Waller for Significant Object
Duo Flash—Yevgeniy Dashkivskuu and Yefrem Bitkine
Fratelli Rossi—Alejando and Ricardo Rossi
Los Lopez—The Lopez Family
Les Incredibles—Anny Laplante and Andrei Kalesnikau
Lucky Moon—Elena Gatilova
The Cycling Cyclone—Florian Blummel
The Elastic Dislocationist—Senayet Assefa Amara
The Great Gaston—Francois Borie
The Flying Fins—Artur Ivankovich, Petter Vastermark, AJ Saltalamacchia
The Sensational Sozonov—Mikhail Sozonov
Ringmaster Willy Whipsnade—David Williamson
Puppeteers—Luke Chadwick-Jones, Daniel Fanning, Nyron Levy, Henry Maynard, Chris Milford, Jessica Spalis
Reviewed Performance: 5/24/2017
Reviewed by Genevieve Croft , Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
I cannot think of a better week for Circus 1903 to debut in Dallas. With the sad news of the 146 year old tradition of Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus closing this week, the circus (has sadly) become a form of old-fashioned, perhaps antiquated entertainment. What used to delight and thrill audiences now seems a distant memory-as the cost of production has skyrocketed, the cost of admission going up, and the notion and insinuation of the mistreatment of circus animals. It is sad to see it go, as it was one of the earliest forms of “modern” entertainment that employed actors, animals and performers. However, as the 146 year tradition of Ringling Brothers comes to a close, audiences become accustomed to ushering in the “nouveau” circus, through the Cirque du Soleil franchise-incorporating elements from the original circus, including (but not limited to) aerialists, trapeze artistry, juggling, acrobatics, and of course, unicycle riding. It has been modernized by adding the music of The Beatles, and other uniquely themed cultural and entertainment icons.
I wasn’t quite sure what to expect exactly. Was it going to be a musical with the circus as the central theme, or perhaps the story of circus entertainers and how they lived during the early 20th century? I was wrong. Circus 1903 allows audiences from Dallas, Texas to become the actual spectators of a circus from the year 1903. Immediately, the theatregoers have interaction with the Ringmaster (posing as the popcorn peddler and delivering humorous banter with the audience). The first act of the performance has Willy Whipsnade narrating to the audience how the circus works. We see a glimpse of the circus rolling into town, and preparing for the big day. Audiences are exposed to the Elastic Dislocationist (played by Senayet Assefa Amara), Serpentina, the snake charmer, and the humorous 200 lb. “Man Eating Chicken.” (And yes, there actually is a “man eating chicken on stage!” You have to see it to believe it, folks! Act I is the “rehearsal” if you will. Act 2 begins just as the red and blue striped big top tent is mounted, and the circus gets underway with the Great Gaston, the fabulously talented juggler, and Los Lopez, the height defying tightrope walkers.
From the moment the production starts, the energy was enthusiastic, upbeat and strong. Throughout the production, the audience actually felt as if they were the spectators in the audience at the circus. The Ringmaster, Willy Whipsnade (played marvelously by David Williamson) was delightfully playful with the audience. By breaking the fourth wall (and directly addressing the audience) to calling enthusiastic youngsters up on stage to participate in magic tricks-just as I would have expected from the Ringmaster at the Circus. Audiences could feel the positive energy ruminate from the stage, and are quickly drawn into watching the “magnificent feats” and “death-defying acts” that are illustrated before them. I also greatly enjoyed the amount of improvisation work that went into this performance.
One of the most challenging things about a production like this is wondering how the audience will react during each performance. On the May 24th performance, the audience was thrilled and mesmerized by the assortment of circus acts that filled the stage. From aerialists, to human trapeze artists, unicyclists, and the quintessential tight rope act, a “splendid time is guaranteed for all!” The audience was lively, and I can most assuredly anticipate that the audiences will keep the enthusiasm as the production continues its performance run at Dallas Summer Musicals. As long as they are audiences that allow themselves to be entertained and fascinated by the acts in the 1903 circus, the performance will not disappoint! Audiences are even encouraged by the Ringmaster to cheer, holler, and show their amazement for the circus performers and various acts as perform on stage.
Director Neil Dorward brought together an ensemble cast which worked well together, and collaborated with a dedicated crew intricately knit together scenery, lighting and costumes that enhanced the experience of being at the Circus in 1903. Mr. Dorward wonderfully delivers in the role of director.
Sets were designed by Todd Edward Ivins. There was many surprises that came along with the set and overall design. I was most impressed with the recreation of performance under the big top. The sets were grand in height, and impressive in nature. They very much resembled what you would see at the actual circus. One of the most impressive elements of the scenic design was seeing a fully functional teeter-totter in the opening of the production featuring the Duo Flash, two perfectly timed gentlemen with impressive acrobatic ability. I also enjoyed seeing the simple circus wagon transform into the Side Show stage, and the dressing room of the Elastic Dislocationist. It was a very simple piece that served many functions, and allowed the audience to believe that it was merely a simple circus wagon with no other function. Not only did it provide ample opportunity for the scenic changes, but, it also provided a bit of magic seeing the wagon open up and reveal other things. The pacing and the transitions moved quickly, and it was a very quick two hours at the theater. The sets were created, designed, and executed with great care, detail and precision.
Lighting was designed by Paul Smith. Lighting, like the scenic design, was also very intricate, and executed in a very professional manner. The mood was clearly established as the audience was drawn into the world of the circus. There was quite a bit of color, which made the production very grand, and exciting. It is apparent that there was quite a bit of time and talent devoted to creating the lighting of this production. The variety of bright, colorful lighting really accentuated the colorful personalities of these performers. Lighting was also high energy, and powerful. It was an interesting touch to see alternating colors of light create a striped effect, very similar to the fabric designs used for the big top later in the production.
Costumes were designed by Angela Aaron. Aaron designed costumes that also worked well with the scenic and the lighting designs. The costumes were very appropriate to the story, and were also full of spectacle and color. Aaron did a phenomenal job of collaborating with the other areas of design, and created a visually pleasing, and a complex design for each character in this production. Each costume has its own unique touch, and was very relevant to the time period. Costumes were exotic and functional. There was a variety of textures and sparkle that added to the costumes, allowing them to be just as dramatic as the circus acts.
Perhaps one of the best takeaways from this production is the puppetry. Audiences are truly amazed by the appearance of Queenie and Peanut, a mother/child elephant act who interact with the audience, and with the other performers on stage. The two elephants are operated by a team of very talented puppeteers, who give life, animation, and character to these two elephants. From the same puppeteers who designed “Warhorse,” Queenie and Peanut are very life-like, and create the suggestion that animals are actually used on stage. It provides a large amount of magic to the production that would definitely be missed. After all, how can you have a circus without elephants?
Circus 1903 is definitely worth seeing. Audience members were buzzing with excitement as we exited the theater. The meticulous and care for detail is evident in all aspects of the production, and makes for a wonderful experience at the circus, I mean the theater. You have a very short time to see Circus 1903 at The Music Hall at Fair Park, then, it will roll on to the next city, and will only be a memory.
THE GOLDEN AGE OF CIRCUS!
DALLAS SUMMER MUSICALS
THE MUSIC HALL AT FAIR PARK
909 1ST AVE.
DALLAS, TX 75210
Plays through June 4th, 2017.
Thu., May 25, 7:30pm
Fri., May 26, 7:30pm
Sat., May 27, 1:30pm
Sat., May 27, 7:30pm
Sun., May 28, 1:30pm
Sun., May 28, 7:30pm
Tue., May 30, 7:30pm
Wed., May 31, 7:30pm
Thu., June 1, 1:30pm
Thu., June 1, 7:30pm
Fri., June 2, 7:30pm
Sat., June 3, 1:30pm
Sat., June 3, 7:30pm
Sun., June 4, 1:30pm
Ticket prices range from $21.00-$110.00, depending on day and seating. For groups of 10 or more, please call 214.426.4768 or email: Groups@DallasSummerMusicals.org. For info and to purchase tickets, go to www.DallasSummerMusicals.org, by phone at 1.800.745.3000 and at The Box Office, located at 909 1st Avenue, Dallas, Texas 75210 at the Music Hall at Fair Park. Please note that the Preston Royal Box Office has closed.