I remember the smells, of course. The popcorn, the sweet spun candy, the sour manure, the excitement.
I remember the motorcycles in the steel cage, the elephants and the roaring lion.
I remember the big red and yellow program, too. Although I might have that confused with something else. My Dad would buy a program for any event held in a civic center or auditorium.
After the kids (and the wife) watched The Greatest Showman almost non-stop for a week, we decided to surprise the girls with tickets to the Big Apple Circus. Like Disney on Ice or the Globetrotters, if you don’t take your children to the circus at least once, I’m pretty sure they revoke your parenting license.
I’ll admit I was a bit hesitant. Maybe ‘Water for Elephants’ ruined the circus for me. Maybe I read one too many sinister Ray Bradbury stories. Or maybe the circus just felt like talking on a rotary phone, a bit old-fashioned, a bit past its time.
Despite being assured (by the website) of a thrilling, death-defying, remarkable, astounding re-launched show (Big Apple, like Barnum & Bailey went bankrupt a few years ago), I remained skeptical. Maybe it was just too many fly-by-night carnie operations that strand kids on a Ferris Wheel, I was expecting something rag-tag, tarnished, down at the heels. Maybe there would be an occasional spark, but a show mostly on it’s last legs for a last generation.
The Big Apple set up in an empty one block lot in Assembly Row. Everything is temporary and small. This would be both a good thing and a bad thing throughout the day.
With all the recent commercial development in that area, there was ample free parking (up to 3 hours), at least for the first show which was a big savings as opposed to having it in the city.
By the time we made it to the temporary box office, Ally was almost vibrating with excitement. She may have been under the assumption that Hugh Jackman and Zac Efron worked at every circus.
I will say my skepticism was not assuaged when we walked into the front of the tent after picking up our tickets at will call. The cramped, makeshift souvenir and concession stands had all the hallmarks of those flyer-on-a-telephone pole carnival outfits. There was also a very sad looking pony ready to pose for pictures. To their credit, the bar cart was open and operational for the 11 am show.
Things did start looking up when they opened the tent for seating about 45 minutes before the show. Now, the small, close-up intimacy actually worked really well. The seats were temporary, but the ring and staging didn’t feel cheap. Everything felt bright and fresh and close-up.
We got a great deal on tickets through BosTix, but we did end up with seats in the last row, but even there, none of the seats are more than 50(ish) feet from the ring. It’s a European-style circus, so there is only one smaller ring.The girls are still sweet (i.e., naive) enough to think this is a great thing as we are high enough not to miss any of the action.
Just a heads up, there are A LOT of light up toys and widgets available for purchase. We held a pre-circus reminder about Dad’s ‘No Light Up Toys’ policy.
They were allowed one snack (bags are searched on the way in and no outside food is allowed) which they immediately claimed before the show even started. One chose a cinnabon and one went with Dippin’ Dots ice cream because, of course, the circus has Dippin’ Dots. The ice cream of the future for the last thirty years!
It was actually a good idea in retrospect to get the snack before the show started. There is one intermission during the 2 hour show and things in the concession and restroom (porta-potties) get very crowded.
Plus, they were so enthralled by the show that eating was the furthest thing from their mind.
The show itself was wonderful. Perfect for kids the girl’s age. Each act was no more than 10 minutes and were accompanied by a live band that played orchestral versions of pop songs.
Between acts, as setup or cleanup was taking place, two roving (friendly, not in any way creepy) vaudeville-style clowns kept everyone entertained. It helped that the clowns were also legitimately funny. Think Buster Keaton style theatrics, some of which involved audience volunteers.
I’m not sure who enjoyed the show more, mother or daughters. Michelle is now almost as enthralled with circus life as she is with Broadway diva life.
The girls favorite acts were the trapeze (trapaneze to Ally), the dog tricks (all rescue dogs) and the Wallenda’s tight rope walking finale, but all the acts from juggling, tumbling, horses or roller skating kept their interest.
After the show, many of the performers were available for pictures or quick conversations as people exited.
The Big Apple Circus at Assembly Row was well worth the price of admission. The show was fast-paced, family friendly and entertaining. The girls have been talking about it for the entire week afterward. If you have a chance to see this traveling show, don’t hesitate to get under the big top.