All photos by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Peep this, peeps!  So, it seems that the producers of The Illusionists (the world’s largest magic show) have teamed-up with the award-winning puppeteers from War Horse; to bring us the visually stunning and family-friendly Circus 1903 – The Golden Age of Circus!  And best of all, you can experience this rousing show, right now; and smack-dab on the middle of the Las Vegas Strip, at Paris Las Vegas, to boot.

Harkening back to the turn of the last century, Circus 1903 takes guests back to a more innocent time, when the circus coming to town was the biggest thing going.  Before Epcot Center (or Las Vegas Boulevard, for that matter), it was the circus that brought you acts from all parts of the globe*, in the guise of strong men, high wire acts, contortionists, bearded ladies, acrobats, and more.

And with them, came the elephants.  Only, in the case of Circus 1903, the two elephants – a mother (Queenie) and her calf (Peanut) – are brought to life through the magic of puppetry; and it’s pretty incredible.  I mean, like the rest of my vintage; having grown-up in the Jim Henson/George Lucas/Steven Spielberg era, I’m pretty down with the idea of puppets. 

Let’s face it - the craft has come a long way, since the days of Punch & Judy (or Kukla, Stan, and Ollie, if you prefer).  And watching Queenie (Daniel Fanning, Nyron Levy, and Chris Milford) and Peanut (Luke Chadwick-Jones) maneuver across the stage, I was taken aback by the graceful movements afforded these creations by their highly skilled puppeteers. Queenie and Peanut are light-years from Lamb Chop; so, it’s no surprise that it takes a lot more than having Shari Lewis as your proctologist, to imbue these pretend pachyderms with such seemingly natural, realistic gestures.

The great thing about Circus 1903, to my mind, is that – even if you take the elephants out, altogether (which you shouldn’t, because they’re awesome) – the performers are tops in their various fields, and worth the price of admission.

The soloists are a charming lot, and took the stage with their respective skills while casting a commanding presence over the tent.  “The Great Gaston” (François Borie) is a juggler par excellence; while “The Cycling Cyclone” (Florian Blümmel) rides his bicycle ‘round, until it seems as though his bicycle might ride him!  Later, “The Sensational Sozonov” (Gediminas “Geddy” Pavlovic) balances atop the rocking tower of cylinders known as the Rola Bola; and “The Elastic Dislocationist” (Senayet Assefa Amara) pulls her lovely limbs into a veritable pretzel, while keeping a radiant smile on her face, even as everything below her ribcage runs in circles around her torso.  

As for the duos, and trios, they make it all look so deceptively easy.  “The Flying Finns” (Artur Ivankovich, Ilya Kotenyov, and Petter Vatermark) spin and soar, thanks to their mastery of the Teeterboard; “Les Incredibles” (Andrei Kalesnikau and Anny Laplante) perform the aerial catch-and-release program known to circus folks as the Russian Cradle; and “Fratelli Rossi” (Alejandro Rossi Ribes and Ricardo Rossi Ribes), give their brotherly-all to their take on the Icarian Games (known on this side of the Atlantic as “a Risely act”).  High above it all, “Los Lopez” (MariaJose Dominguez, Johan Lopez, and Jonaton Lopez) don’t just walk the high-wire; the brothers Lopez ride across it on bicycles, as MariaJose does the splits, between them, atop a beam balanced on the brothers’ shoulders!

As our mustachioed Ringmaster, Wm. Winterbottom Whipsnade (David Williamson) roars from the stage, to whip the audience into the proper frame of mind, “You’re not at the theater: You’re at the circus!”

Circus 1903: The Golden Age of Circus
Paris Theater | Paris Las Vegas
Click HERE for info and tickets

Get into it!

[Editor’s Note: At least they claimed to be from distant, far-away locales; but were, in all likelihood, from places no more exotic than Pacoima or Fresno.]

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