A new circus is coming to town — and yes, there are elephants.
Circus 1903, coming to Madison Square Garden next month on its North American tour, combines Broadway-level production values and classic feats of daring skill into a show that takes the circus back to its golden age, while creating an experience that any animal rights advocate would enjoy.
“What we’ve done is put all the traditional elements back in the circus and remind people why they loved it in the first place,” says ringmaster David Williamson. “Our show is a theatrical experience, so we bring all the theater arts to bear to transport audiences to the circus under the big top in the year 1903.”
Rather than relying on Cirque du Soleil-style glitz and technical wizardry, “Circus 1903” trades on the nostalgia of its setting at the height of the circus’ popularity. The family-friendly show starts with Williamson narrating a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the traveling circus life.
“You’ll see the circus wagon, people in their everyday clothes doing laundry and working on their props, moving lumber around, ‘rehearsing’ and getting ready for the tent to be raised,” he explains. Then, in a “giant, amazing moment,” the tent comes up, the ringmaster blows the whistle, and it’s on with the show.
What follows is a collection of world-class acts — the producers toured the globe for a year to cast the show — featuring a family of tightrope dancers, foot jugglers, rolla bolla, fire artists and more. And then there are the clever updates: Instead of traditional clowns in white makeup, there are comic acrobats. There’s a “fun, vampy” send-up of sideshows, all to lead up to the celebration of the human body that is Sosina Wogayehu, better known as the Elastic Dislocationist. “It’s a beautiful act, almost like a dance,” Williamson say. “She literally ties herself into knots and runs around her own body.”