Circus made big headlines this year. After 100 years in business, Ringling Bros. called it quits. And just when I thought that circus was gone for good, Circus 1903 – The Golden Age of Circus made its world debut at The Theater at Madison Square Garden.
With groundbreaking advances in design and style, Circus 1903 reinvents the circus. Not only does the show feature extraordinary talent from around the world, but there’s a twist. Circus 1903 brings back elephants.
But these aren’t elephants from the wild. In fact, no animals were harmed during the production of the show. Instead, two life-size elephant puppets take the stage. They looked incredibly real. I couldn’t believe my eyes. This show was everything that I could have hoped for and more.
Circus 1903 – The Golden Age of Circus
Photo Credit: Mark Turner
Going to the circus was a big night out for my mom and I. Since this isn’t something that we do often, this was a treat. Actually, we hadn’t been to a circus since I was a little girl. It’s been over 15 years! The show brought back fond memories. It also created new ones for us.
The spectacle started in the lobby. Families could enjoy circus-themed games. And kids could even take photos posing as their favorite performers. The high-wire over the fire was popular. You could also buy classic circus snacks like popcorn and cotton candy.
Act I: In Front Of The Circus
The show opened with audience participation. The ringmaster invited one lucky youngster on stage. As expected, the theater filled with screams. “Pick me!” “Pick me!” This was a fantastic way to engage the kids early on. I loved seeing the excitement in their eyes.
The ringmaster also introduced all the new acts. He had a great sense of humor. This was especially true when his mustache almost fell off mid-show! He playfully poked fun at himself and the audience. His jokes appealed to everyone.
The contortionist was one of my favorite acts. From “Africa”, she moved her body in ways that I couldn’t imagine possible.
One thing that I did not appreciate was generalizing her origin. Africa is a large continent. The ringmaster could have mentioned a specific country. Even if generalizing was okay in 1903, it is not in 2017.
Despite all the awe-inspiring acts (and there were many), the elephants were unforgettable.
When the elephants came out for the first time, I overheard an audience member express disappointment. But I felt the exact opposite. The elephants deserved a standing ovation! They were beautiful.
Designed by the award-winning creators of “War Horse”, the puppets looked just like elephants. They moved like them. And they even squirted water from their trunks! Although the puppeteers were visible, this didn’t take away from the performance. It enhanced it.
Photo Credit: Mark Turner
I kept thinking, how are they doing this? In order for the elephants to come to life, six puppeteers had to put themselves in strange positions. Who needs real elephants when puppets can do a phenomenal job?
Queenie is one of the largest performing African elephants. Throughout the show, she teaches her baby calf the tricks of the trade.
The puppeteers did a phenomenal job creating authentic emotion. Peanut, the baby calf had a playful personality. She galloped across the stage. She even surprised one lucky 4-year-old girl.
Act II: Inside the Tent
In the second half, Lucky Moon, the aerialist took the stage. I was at a loss for words. Coupled with the soundtrack, her act was soulful. I almost cried during her performance.
Act II also featured a phenomenal juggler. The crowd clapped and cheered as he added more pins to his routine. He touched the crowd when he jumped off stage to hug his mom – such a heartfelt moment.
6th Generation high-wire family from Mexico – Photo Credit: Mark Turner
Circus 1903 is a love letter to the classic age of circus. It brings elephants back to the circus without the animal cruelty. It proves that circus is timeless. And it is just as sensational today as it was 100 years ago. It’s also an important art form that we can’t let fall by the wayside.
The acrobats, cyclists, tumblers and stilt walkers are all talented artists. With new productions pushing traditional boundaries, I can’t wait to see what new stunts are up next!
Circus 1903 is at The Theater at Madison Square Garden in New York City until April 16th. Tickets start at $39. You can also catch this show in many other cities across the country!
I was a guest of the show, of course, all opinions are mines.
Author: Danielle Desir
Danielle Desir is a Travel Finance Strategist that uses her financial background and knack for financial planning to empower those who want to travel afford travel and excel in their personal finances. She shares creative planning strategies, saving tips, cheap flight deals and even talks about her student loan repayment journey on her blog, The Thought Card. Her financial expertise has taken her across the globe to over 19 countries and 3 continents (and counting), all while paying off her student loans, saving for a house and working full-time.