From the Ground Up Tour
Presented by Celebrity Series of Boston
Feb. 19 — Feb. 23
Citi Shubert Theatre
When was the last time you saw a live performing circus? Chances are you’ve simply forgotten about circus as a type of performing arts. Indeed, with so many blockbuster movies filled with otherworldly acrobatics, there seems to be a loss of interest in seeing an actual human being putting their life at risk for your entertainment. Nevertheless, the entertaining teams of performers — from Cirque du Soleil to The Big Apple Circus — still deliver some of the most gut-wrenching and captivating shows to people across the world. Last week, Boston hosted the world’s renowned Australian ensemble of acrobats, musicians, and dancers known as Circus Oz.
Established in Melbourne in 1978, Circus Oz is an animal-free circus that unites traditional circus arts with theater, musical, high-risk acrobatics and stand-up comedy. Their tour “From The Ground Up” is a perfect choice of circus that’s appropriate for all ages — jaw-dropping feats for the kids and hilarious jokes for the adults who appreciate a subtle sense of humor. With a cast of good-looking and charming Australians, Circus Oz is the perfect blend of fun and spectacle.
Their show premiered in Boston last Wednesday at Citi Shubert Theatre, and it was a two-hour long performance filled with laughter, applause, and gasps. It might be counterintuitive to imagine a circus on theater stage, but Circus Oz is far from a regular circus ensemble. Their performers mingle with the audience before the show and show off their tricks while the rest of the circus crew is setting up the stage, which seems a vibrant and joyous construction site. The show starts with the performers telling jokes and trying to perform card tricks. It all somehow seems a bit dull when there is no one flying in the air during the first fifteen minutes of performance.
But that is just an elaborate prank. The ensemble tricks you into thinking that the show is going to be mellow, but just after the first twenty minutes, the thrills begin. One of the male performers climbs a ten-meter tall pole that keeps swinging from left to right, while one of the female performers plays a jazzy melody on the piano as if it’s commonplace to risk multiple fracture every day. And that’s when you realize that the show is anything but traditional.
Not all of the stunts were quite as frightening as the one with the swinging pole, but they were always stunning enough to have the audience applauding every two minutes. Some of the most fascinating feats included juggling a small table with feet, doing reverse spirals on a hanging hula-hoop, “tightroping” on a rotating rope, and see-saw somersaults. Despite the extraordinary focus and practice required to perform these acrobatics, the performers delivered every stunt with such grace and enjoyment that it was easy to believe that the effect of gravity was the last thing on their mind.
In addition to performing the stunts, most of the performers played instruments, coloring the performance with an entertaining mixture of rock ‘n’ roll and jazz. It was quite fascinating to see such a talented crowd tackle every aspect of the show. And, if that wasn’t enough, the naughty humor, subtle sexual innuendos, and the playful gender-based jokes were guaranteed to bring out smiles in the audience.
Of course, when there is so much emphasis on theatricality and delivery, there is not a lot of space for coherence within the show’s story. The basic idea of the story was pretty clear, but there were still a few moments of filler dialogues that seemed to diverge from the show’s premise. Then again, when there is a person in front of you spinning a table just with her feet, who needs a well-developed story to be entertained?