Directed by Mark Lonergan
A sense of wonder is a challenging thing to instill in today’s audiences. Yet even the most jaded patrons will find it impossible not to gasp at some of the derring-do displayed in the THE GRAND TOUR, not to smile at the production’s overall charm, spirit, and panache.
The show’s ingenious framing device is established quickly, as ebullient ringleader John Kennedy Kane prepares the crowd for the journey ahead. The theme here is luxury travel, 1920s style. The concept serves a dual purpose: it helps provide a loose through-line on which to pin the performances, and more importantly, allows the creative staff to add fanciful sonic and visual touches. Rob Slowik’s orchestra plays selections that evoke exotic locales and jazz age splendor. Scenic and lighting designer Maruti Evans – whose remarkable storytelling skills are familiar to fans of the Godlight Theater Company – joins forces with costume designer Oana Botez to give the presentation an opulent style reminiscent of vintage travel posters.
A richly varied lineup of acts includes the voluptuous hula hoop artistry of Chiara Anastasini, an innovative juggling routine by Alexander Koblikov, exuberant teeterboard antics from the Dosov Troupe, feats of physical dexterity by the Zuma Zuma African Acrobats and the aptly named Energy Trio, a truly heart-stopping turn by the Dominguez Brothers on an enormous apparatus called the Wheel of Wonder, and a lyrical aerialist solo dance by Sergey Akimov. The talent pool here is not limited to the human species, and demonstrations of canine agility and equine beauty, choreographed by animal whisperer Jenny Vidbel, are among the show’s most memorable moments. Along the way, clowns Joel Jeske and Brent McBeth add a touch of commedia dell’arte to their wordless portrayals of the pompous steward of a luxury liner and his trickster assistant.
The entire evening vibrates with a refreshing tone of sincerity and joy– the born performer’s deep desire to show the audience a wonderful time. Populist in the best and most timeless sense of the word, these troupers seem grateful that there is still a place where they can do what they love, where their diligently-honed abilities still matter. Both children and media-weary grownups would do well to place a soul-rejuvenating visit to the big top on their holiday season to-do lists.
THE GRAND TOUR continues through January 10, 2016 at Lincoln Center’s Damrosch Park, Amsterdam Avenue and West 62nd Street, New York, NY 10023. Tickets: https://tickets.bigapplecircus.org/Online/default.asp