Music and dance thematically link routines from around the world in â€œPlay On,â€ the largely new 31st annual edition of the Big Apple Circus, currently at City Hall Plaza.
A few performances during the first half still need tuning up, like the singing of British ringmistress Carrie Harvey and the low-wire boogy-ing of Sarah Schwarz. But the identical twin La Salle brothers have always incorporated jazz dancing into their mirror-image juggling and acrobatic routine, making their â€œDouble Timeâ€ a perfect fit for the overall musical motif.
In the betcha-havenâ€™t-seen-this before category, classical ballerina Zhu Zhengshen balances en pointe (tiptoe) on various parts of her partner An Nanâ€™s anatomy.
Iconic clown Grandma (Barry Lubin) still tickles kidsâ€™ funny bones with his silent slapstick, parodying previous routines and Dancing with the Stars. More discriminating comedy connoisseurs might prefer Belgian guest artist Olivier Taquin, playing a tuxedoed mannequin come to life. Taquin is especially hilarious when robotically lurching through a tango, dragging along a hapless female plucked from the audience.
Some performers specialize in fancy footwork of a non-choreographed sort. In a welcome change of pace from previous Big Appleâ€™s equestrian acts (which showcased horses going through their paces), â€œPlay Onâ€ features daredevil riding by Christine Zerbini and Sultan Kumisbayev. The latter, a member of a Cossack troupe in his native Kazakstan, leaps on and off his fast-galloping steed, providing real rodeo thrills.
The showâ€™s only other animal routine is a sure-fire audience pleaser, a dog act â€œgone wrong.â€ Pompous, mustachioed Luciano Anastasini seems to lose complete control of his â€œpound puppies,â€ all rescued from US shelters. Their mischievous tricks are wildly different from the ones he commands them to perform.
Other international â€œhigh notesâ€: Chinaâ€™s Guiming Meng, balancing on his head a succession of ever bigger and heavier ceramic jars and the Russian barre act of the Rodion Trio, who won the Golden Clown, the worldâ€™s most prestigious circus award.
Again benefiting the Childrenâ€™s Museum, the Big Apple continues at City Hall Plaza through May 10. Tickets may be purchased by calling 888-541-3750, logging on to bigapplecircus.org, or stopping by the box office in front of the Big Top any day.