Review: ‘The Big Apple Circus’ Brings Fun to the National Harbor

The Big Apple Circus has come to the DC area for their 40th Anniversary Celebration. Original founders, Paul Binder and Michael Christensen, established the BAC in 1977. Their European styled, one ring circus is designed to bring the audience closer to the performers and allow for greater focus on individual artistry and skill, as opposed to the flash and pageantry of the standard, American, three-ring circus.

Nik Wallenda in The Big Apple Circus. Photo courtesy of The Big Apple Circus.

Now, the BAC has brought their new show, filled with astonishing acts that seem to defy the laws of gravity and display the wondrous capabilities of human strength and concentration beyond imagination, to the National Harbor. My middle child’s 11th birthday happened to fall on The Big Apple Circus Press Night and I was lucky enough to be able to attend last week, with my three boys in tow.

The tent “lobby” area – for lack of a better term – housed several small stands where people could mill around and purchase items. There were coffee and cinnamon buns, a bar cart, face painting, Dippin’ Dots, and a photo op with an adorable pony. We found our seats under the Big Top and the show began, with Ringmaster, Tyron “Ty” McFarlan, introducing the acts with sophistication and a subdued sense of anticipation bubbling beneath the surface of his demeanor.

The performers were all incredible. Joel Jeske clowned with the audience between acts, finally convincing my oldest child that clowns are truly hilariously lovable performers and not just the curly-haired, big-shoed stuff of nightmares.

Jan Damm did a “rola bola” balancing act, which required him to balance on a board on top of a cylinder on top of a table. And that was just the beginning! Gamal Garcia Tuniziani juggled pins and balls in ways I still don’t understand to be possible. Elayne Kramer is a contortionist. I don’t want to give away any highlights of the show, but I will say that her aim is impeccable, and I couldn’t do that well even using my hands. Dandino and Luciano performed an original roller skating act that was equal parts exhilarating and terrifying.

Elayne Kramer in The Big Apple Circus. Photo by Juliana Crawford.

For the animal lovers, there is Jenny Vidbel. Her team of trained ponies, horses, and dogs ran around the ring in various formations, changing direction and order based on their coat color. Her bio explains that Vidbel is involved with rescue animals and complies with all regulations for animal care and safety, for those that may be concerned (I know I was and felt 100% confident after researching the show and seeing her act).

The Anastasini Brothers performed an icarian act that is hard to verbally describe. Just know that it involves a tremendous amount of trust and a lot of flips. I mean, so many. It was unbelievable. The flying Tuniziani troupe performed on the trapeze and their star flyer, Ammed Tuniziani, attempted the rarely seen quadruple somersault.

The pride and joy of the Big Apple Circus was The Wallendas’ high-wire balancing act. Ringmaster Ty explains the history of the seven-person pyramid with pride and the whole audience watched in absolute silence as the group prepared for the dangerous feat.

Attention must be called to the impressive grounds crew that assembled and disassembled their high wires and various contraptions with astounding speed and efficiency, as well as the creative team, including Director Mark Lonergan, Choreographer Antionette DiPietropolo, and Sound Designer Thomas Owings-Batz.

In town through April 1st, the Big Apple Circus offers two full-hours of exciting entertainment that the entire family will enjoy and remember for years to come. I went with my family, which included one child determined that he was not going to enjoy himself, and we were all blown away. Prepare to be astounded by the variety of acts that really does have something for everybody. My birthday boy’s reaction sums up our experience the best: at one point during the show, he turned to me with an enormous smile and said, “This is the best birthday present, ever.” That’s all the endorsement one should need, I think.

Running Time: One hour and 45 minutes, with one 15-minute intermission.

The Big Apple Circus performs through April 1, 2018 at The National Harbor – 238 Waterfront Street, in Oxon Hill, MD. Buy tickets at the box office on site, or purchase them online.

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