There’s something charming about classic circus acts. I’d say nostalgic, but nostalgia requires some memory of the original event and the early 20th century predates even me. Everything I know about the classic circus – thick facial hair, puffy trousers, and women in white tights – is through photos, films and now Circus 1903: The Golden Age of Circus Show playing now at the Paris Las Vegas Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.
Circus 1903 is a variety show of classic circus acts – juggling, balancing, tumbling, contortions, a modified trapeze act, and tightrope walking – complete with a grandpa-like Ring Master/comedian who calls kids onto the stage. This is ‘ta-da’ circus at its finest and a family show – it’s actually dependent on kids being in the audience. Prepare to clap a lot. Fortunately, there are no traditional red-wigged scary clowns.
There are, however, elephants.
Yes, elephants. But with a catch, (although I wouldn’t put it past Sin City to try to sneak a few pachyderms down the street).
Elephants are the reason I bought tickets. The Elephants – Queenie and her calf peanut – are life-sized puppets moving with remarkable life-like accuracy. When Queenie first appeared on stage, lit so the complex pieces of this moveable puzzle blended like one skin, I momentarily thought she might be real.
She’s not. Both are elegant puppets, including Peanut who serves as comic relief, more agile than the giant Queenie and operated by only one puppeteer.
What’s this got to do with horses? Not much, except Significant Objects, the same artists who brought horses to life in the stage play War Horse, created these elephants. And they are the show’s source of emotional appeal.
As elegant as these puppets are, I couldn’t help think about the lives of real elephants in this era and circumstances (and others currently around the world brutalized into giving rides to tourists). I wasn’t sorry when Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus finally removed the elephants from its tent, long overdue in a world slowly – maybe too slowly – becoming sensitive to animal issues.
Ultimately, though, Circus 1903 is about the performers’ skill highlighted, rather than overshadowed, by stage design, props and set.
Previously in Los Angeles and New York, Las Vegas is one of several stops for Circus 1903, which opened July 25, 2017 at the Paris Hotel for a five-month run.
I was there night two, and the show wasn’t perfect. All the better because there was an authenticity to the errors: the tightrope walker fell and caught himself on the rope, the juggle nearly flew off the stage catching a wayward pin, and the tumblers tumbled on top each other, fortunately to no visible injury.
None of these slips distracted from the showmanship – on the contrary. Obvious, was how demanding these performance of exceptional skill and dedication are. Best part is – it’s people, not animals, making the choice to perform. That I can appreciate.
Want to see real horses in Las Vegas? Check out horsetrotting’s review of Tournament of Kings.
Visiting Las Vegas soon? Check out Frommer’s Easy Guide to Las Vegas 2017 (Amazon affiliate link).