Whimsical Wonderbolt Circus is fun, beautiful

Gordon Jones
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If you have become accustomed to strolling over to St. Bon's to enjoy summertime circus, take note that you need to change your itinerary, since Wonderbolt is this year to be found not in that august institution but on and around the proscenium stage of Memorial University's Reid Theatre.

The show that opened on Friday past, before an audience of more than 300 excited children and adults, is called "Tricksters." But there is no trick to its success, just a mountain of inspiration, versatility and well-honed professional performance skills executed with panache by a dozen athletes, dancers, clowns, stilt-walkers, acrobats, aerialists, tumblers, jugglers, hoop twirlers, plate spinners and a youth so engrossed by his Rubik's cube that he is oblivious to the marvels surrounding him - until he in turn becomes part of the show, deftly stroking and manoeuvring a crystal globe until it seems to float in the air. A touch here of the magic of Cirque du Soleil.

Beni Malone of the Wonderbolt Circus juggles clubs during a show on George Street Sunday. - Telegram Photo

If you have become accustomed to strolling over to St. Bon's to enjoy summertime circus, take note that you need to change your itinerary, since Wonderbolt is this year to be found not in that august institution but on and around the proscenium stage of Memorial University's Reid Theatre.

The show that opened on Friday past, before an audience of more than 300 excited children and adults, is called "Tricksters." But there is no trick to its success, just a mountain of inspiration, versatility and well-honed professional performance skills executed with panache by a dozen athletes, dancers, clowns, stilt-walkers, acrobats, aerialists, tumblers, jugglers, hoop twirlers, plate spinners and a youth so engrossed by his Rubik's cube that he is oblivious to the marvels surrounding him - until he in turn becomes part of the show, deftly stroking and manoeuvring a crystal globe until it seems to float in the air. A touch here of the magic of Cirque du Soleil.

An aerial gymnast descends from the ceiling, shadowed on the walls, performing athletically and balletically. To driving music, a dancer whirls through shimmering, technicolour hoops. A lissome and graceful female aerialist winds in and around and through long, parallel drapes.

A dowdy spinster is amusingly transformed into a sultry artiste in a red dress strutting her stuff to torrid instrumentation. Another spins and dances in a fiery hoop - and then adds a second for good measure. A woman sitting demurely at her bistro table, sipping white wine, leaps into a suspended hoop - revolving, twining, circling - starting tentatively, even reflectively, but ending passionately and erotically as she is possessed by the hot music.

Rivetting number

And, in a rivetting second-act number, two brothers - dancer Terrence Littletent and singer-drummer Jayson Littletent - create an astonishing dance, with luminescent hoops becoming almost animate under the blue light as they are configured and reconfigured by the master-dancer into diverse shape-altering forms, to the rhythm of compelling drum and voice accompaniment.

For the past number of years, Wonderbolt Circus has been reliably entertaining, featuring slapstick clowning and striking feats of athleticism and co-ordination.

They still hang on to these circus staples, with zany chases and antics complementing dancing, juggling and mid-air derring-do. Regular circus-goers will recognize a few of the routines from past years.

But with this show, Wonderbolt moves into a new and higher artistic dimension created by sophisticated music, lighting and choreography, by turn lyrical, whimsical or dramatic.

Sure, Wonderbolt was always fun, but it was never before so beautiful.

As is to be expected in such a physically and technically demanding show, there will always be the odd glitch: the club that gets dropped, the hoop that escapes, the diabolo that misbehaves, and on opening night the unicycle scene somehow misfired.

But such slips are few and far between, serving as occasional reminders that this is live and difficult, even when performed by experts.

Appreciative audience

It will surprise nobody, therefore, that the rousing curtain call induced the audience to express their appreciation at the end of the show by rising to their collective feet in the traditionally approved manner.

Beni Malone's Wonderbolt Circus production of "Tricksters," with the services of Andy Jones as consulting director, continues its run at the Reid Theatre until Aug. 23, commencing at 7:30 p.m.

Performers all deserve credit, in addition to the two Littletents named above. They are James Burke, Allisson Collins, Kat Finck, Beni Malone, Dash Malone, David Mercer, Josh Oliver and Anahareo White-Malone. George Morgan, Bill Brennan and the Wonderbolt Band are responsible for the live, onstage music, producing a soundscape which, together with Tom Dunphy's vivid lighting design, is such a crucial affective component of the show.

Tickets are $25 for adults, $15 for children, and, for a pair of each, a family pass is available for $65.

Organizations: Reid Theatre, Cirque du Soleil

Geographic location: Anahareo

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