Relive some fond memories with 'Circus 1903'
It’s instantly familiar, and yet hard to compare to anything else currently showing on the Las Vegas Strip. And during several memorable moments, Circus 1903 is pure magic.
The new production tells the story of the “Golden Age of Circus,” including thrilling performances by acrobats, contortionists and a high-wire act, but its nostalgic appeal is reinforced through vintage-era costumes and music, a general family-friendly vibe and powerful performances from a talented cast that includes, yes, elephants.
The producers of Circus 1903 brought in the genius creative team of puppeteers behind the award-winning Broadway production War Horse to produce the effects behind the show’s true stars: Queenie, modeled after the largest African elephant ever recorded, and her playful calf, Peanut. The first portions of Circus 1903 show the setup of the big top and showcase performers, including an awe-inspiring acrobat who balances precariously on metal cylinders and a bicycle ballet artist known as the Wizard of the Wheel. But when the elephants make their first appearance onstage, the production moves into the actual presentation of the classic circus show—and forges a connection with the audience that circus fans of all ages will never forget.
“I don’t think the audience is prepared for that emotional response,” says David Williamson, who portrays the ringmaster, Willy. “The directors and designers of that scene care about every motivation, everything that happens. When (the cast) finally got to see that scene in rehearsals—we were in Melbourne, Australia, and I hadn’t seen any of the acts yet, only the elephant puppets kind of hanging on trusses—and we took it all in with the music and lighting and everything, my heart was in my throat.”
Williamson, a veteran magician whose warm, funny performance is essential to Circus 1903, says the elephants feel just as real to the cast onstage as they do to the captivated audience. “When I’m standing there next to Queenie or talking to this rascally little baby elephant Peanut, I definitely believe they’re real,” he says. “The show doesn’t try to hide the puppeteers and that’s what makes them hidden. I’ve never had that experience before, and it’s a jaw-dropping moment for everyone, but especially for the kids in the audience.”
Another inspiring moment of the show is when Willy the ringmaster brings some of those kids onstage to participate in a magic trick, an unscripted bit of comedy that keeps each performance fresh and different. One moment you’re laughing, the next you’re gasping while watching the high-wire act Los Lopez, a family trio that gracefully makes the impossible look easy.
Circus 1903 is a study in the power of simplicity. You’ll see some things you’ve never seen before, but you’ll also reconnect with a form of entertainment that may have been lost a bit as it has evolved into so many different kinds of shows that all fall under the banner of circus.
Paris, 7 p.m. Tues.-Sun., additional 3 p.m. show Nov. 25-26, starting at $49 plus tax and fee. 702.777.2782