‘Circus 1903’ resurrects entertainment before TV and tech toys


Circus 1903 brings back the old-fashioned kind of sideshow and acts that visited small towns years ago. Mark Turner Photo.
Circus 1903 brings back the old-fashioned kind of sideshow and acts that visited small towns years ago. Mark Turner Photo.

Ladies and gentlemen, step right up to a funny sideshow with a great contortionist, thrilling main acts of accomplished aerialist and high-wire performances, terrific juggler, fine acrobats and a ringmaster who beguiles kids and adults with patter that is both charming and insightful.

It’s ‘Circus 1903: The Golden Age of Circus’ at the Oriental Theatre only through March 26, 2017.

Don’t expect ‘Cirque du Soleil.’ The acts are fun, professional and choreographed the way they would have looked at the turn of the last century when the circus came to town.

It even has African elephants – a mom and her baby, that are life-sized, wonderfully-created puppets by Mervyn Millar in a similar “War Horse” mode.

Circus 1903 even has elephants. Mark Turner Photo
Circus 1903 even has elephants. Mark Turner Photo

The circus is “conducted” by David Williamson as Ringmaster Willy Whipsnade, a W. C. Fields style huckster who moves the action from tongue-in cheek sideshow to exciting main acts he wants viewers to appreciate.

Williamson, a magician in “The Illusionists,” displays card-deck and coin-behind-the-ear magic with four youngsters on stage.

Indeed, he spends quality time with children he has pulled from the audience as if they are the main attraction. They are so cute and, at least opening night March 21, funny, that they really warmed up the audience to accepting whatever was to come.

What lies ahead are The Flying Fins troupe of talented acrobats  (Arthur Ivankovich, AJ Saltalamacchia and Petter Linsky), the skillful Cycling Cyclone (Florian Blummel), the amazing Elastic Dislocationist (Senayet Assefa Amara) and the fine foot juggling of Fratelli Rossi (Alejandro and Ricardo Rossi.

In addition, there is the graceful aerialist Lucky Moon (Elena Gatilova),  awesome juggling by The Great Gaston  (Francois Borie) and the hold-your-breath high-wire act of Los Lopez (Johan and Jonatan Lopez and Maria Jose Pontigo).

Set design by  Todd Ivins creates a period atmosphere delightfully enhanced by the show’s opening movements of roustabouts who hammer in pegs and performers who are rehearsing. Vintage-style costumes by Angela Aaron add authenticity.

After intermission, the set turns into the inside of the Big Top.

The show, a quick two acts presented during two hours including intermission, is easy for normally squirming children to sit through and enjoy.

Details: ‘Circus 1903 – The Golden Age of Circus,’ directed by Neil Dorward and produced by Simon Painter, Tim Lawson and MagicSpace Entertainment,  is at the Oriental Theatre, 24 W. Randolph St., Chicago, now through March 26, 2017. For tickets and other information call Broadway in Chicago at (800) 775-2000 and visit Broadway in Chicago.