REVIEW: Big Apple an up close and personal experience

Photo by Corinne Nicholson

Photo by Corinne Nicholson

As I walked into the Big Apple Circus tent last weekend, I wasn't sure what to expect.

I figured my two young children, 6-year-old Bryn and 4-year-old Dylan, would have a blast. But I had never been to a smaller-scale, single-ring circus, only the giant Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey spectacle in the Atlanta arenas. Deep down I wondered what all the fuss was about with the Big Apple's clown, Bello. Not that I've heard of many famous clowns, but could this guy really be much different from others I've seen?

Actually, he was. Bello made the show for us. The kids loved him and so did my wife and I. He worked the crowd like he should, but he threw in more acrobatics and stunts than any I'd ever seen from a clown. He joined the performers in their acts and more than held his own. Also, his tall wall of blond hair never got messed up -- not sure how he pulled that off.

The high-flying acts were hits as usual, with the giant dual spinning wheels and the trapeze, as were the animal acts. The circus uses rescue dogs for entertainment, proving you don't necessarily need elephants and tigers to put on an exceptional show.

I was most impressed with Picasso Jr., whose talent I figured had to be the hardest to master. He fired loads of ping pong balls out of his mouth, catching and juggling them all without a hitch. Then he fired frisbee-like plates around the tent, racing through the stands while multiple discs were in the air.

All of the acts were made better by the limited seating. I initially looked at that as a drawback, assuming the smaller setting meant the show would be less impressive. But that was far from the truth.

The intimate setting put every spectator close to the action. Seats in the back row offer a better view than many of the best seats at large-arena circuses, and the souvenirs and food prices were much more reasonable than I expected.

All in all, the Big Apple Circus was a great experience and there's a good chance we'll be back again.