Theatre Reviews
Photo courtesy of Circus Flora.

In 1986 Circus Flora was first performed as a commissioned work for the Spoleto Festival USA, in Charleston, South Carolina. It made St. Louis its home in 1987 with assistance from Vince Schoemehl, the mayor of St. Louis at that time, and Richard Gaddes, then president of Grand Center. Since its inception, Circus Flora’s mission has been to both entertain and to educate.

Now in its 37th season, Circus Flora has titled this year’s show “Under Cover.” It tells the tale of supervillain “Laura” who seeks world domination one circus act at a time. It is up to three goofy clown spies to thwart her efforts, weaving their antics between breathtaking human (and even a few animal) endeavors. Underscoring throughout is the Circus Flora five-member band with original music that is perfectly timed to each impeccably choreographed piece. Cecil MacKinnon, Yo-Yo The Narrator, is our tour guide for the evening and she carries us along for the ride effortlessly.

Act one opens with the St. Louis Arches acrobats. These amazing young people ages 10 to 19 have me holding my breath as they flip over and through one another. At times they are gloriously imperfect and seamlessly start over to perfect a stumble or mis-timed move. In these moments there is so much love and support for one another the strength is palpable.

The Flying Wallendas are circus royalty having ancestral ties to traveling circus troupes as far back as 1820. In “Under Cover” we are witness to three generations of Wallendas performing on the high wire with no net and they are spectacular. The youngest is four years old.

Juggler, Roberto Carlos, is delightful in his energy and exuberance for his craft. He attempts to juggle seven ping-pong balls with his mouth, multiple times and failing that, attempts six ping-pong balls. Sadly, Friday just wasn’t his night but the joy is in the trying and the fun is in the not quite succeeding and we are all with him every dropped ball along the way. But he is no less the skilled artist and his juggling of hats and bowling pins is remarkable.

The crossbow stunts of Mr. and Mrs. G are cheeky and fun. The HogDiggityDog Show with Hans Klose and Colleen Pages is terrific with their pack of spectacular pups and one seven-hundred-pound hog who sings his part right on cue in “Old MacDonald Had A Farm”!

Our supervillain, Laura Lippert, is impressive in her hair hang after she has dominated all of the circus and uses her accumulated superpowers to elevate herself above the audience and take us all under her spell. Even our intrepid clown spies succumb to her and under her spell become a human fountain which is at once ridiculous and perfect in their synchronized “spit”-iness.

The final act of the show is the Globe of Speed. This is a large metal sphere-shaped cage in which not one, not two, but three motocross bikers race at top speed against gravity. All I can say about this act is that for liability purposes Circus Flora might consider having oxygen canisters available at the exit, that’s how long I held my breath.

Circus Flora is all the best parts of Cirque Du Soleil without all the polish and glitz. It feels like it belongs to us, like we are part of it. You’ve got one more week to see St. Louis’s very own circus and it’s a whole lot of fun.

Circus Flora’s “Under Cover” at The Big Top runs through June 25th. For information go to the Circus Flora website.

Related Articles

Sign Up for KDHX Airwaves newsletter