This show is a scream!
The UniverSoul Circus, playing at Floyd Bennett Field through April 16, is a non-stop, energetic thrill ride of terror, wonder, and hilarity, as I discovered this past Sunday.
As a circus newbie, I recruited an experienced and opinionated circus expert to join me — my 9-year-old nephew Marquise. He was immediately taken by the hipness of the advertised performers, who hail from Ethiopia, Peru, and China, among other countries.
“There’s a lot of cool different acts and there are a lot of different countries,” he said. “When I was at Big Apple Circus they didn’t have anyone but Americans there. I think that’s why this is called universal.”
This show has no organ music piping away with the “Baby Elephant Waltz” — instead it kicks off with viral dancers the Fresh Clownsss kicking it to the rap hit “Juju on that Beat.” The pumped-up music had us dancing in our seats, and Lucky the Ringmaster kept us moving throughout the night, wrangling a dance line for grown-ups in the crowd and ending with a dance contest for kids.
And the performers wasted no time shocking and awe-ing. The most eye-popping and entertaining act of the show was a quartet of contortionists doing unimaginably horrifying things with their legs, arms, and torsos. The incredible display was almost vomit-inducing to watch, but no one could look away as the flexible fellows spun their hips through multiple boneless revolutions. My nephew was both fascinated and sickened by the display.
“I really like the people that kept twisting their bodies — I think it was so cool they could actually do that,” said Marquise. “But I think it’s gross because I don’t think that’s how the body is supposed to work.”
My favorite act was a trio of acrobats performing death-defying stunts on an enormous hamster wheel suspended high in the air, vaulting in and out of the Circle of Death while doing jaw-dropping twists and heart-stopping lands. The audience shrieked with terror as one performer jumped rope on the spinning ring, and at this point my nephew had to look away.
“I was scared for him because I imagine myself up there jump roping and getting afraid,” he said. “It wonders me how they can do that. He was doing a good job but I don’t want to see anyone fall or die. I’ve seen it in games but this was real.”
My turn to hide my face came whenever the Hilarious Sifiso walked into the stands to find audience members to spotlight and embarrass in truly hilarious ways, using only a whistle and body language to entertain.
UniverSoul is one of the few circuses to still use animals in their show, and the atmosphere changed — in more ways than one — when the whips cracked above the heads of the horses, camels, zebras, elephants, and one adorable pony. From the back row, one viewer shouted “Don’t whip the pony!” and the otherwise lively crowd gave muted reactions during the animal acts. The animals also have a distinct odor, and sensitive smellers might want to avoid seats in the front row!
But overall, the UniverSoul Circus show was a thrilling two hours, mixing circus tricks with music and comedy. I laughed so much, I left the show with a migraine. Not because I was sick — I was thoroughly entertained, and so was my nephew.
UniverSoul Circus at Aviator Sports and Events Center [3159 Flatbush Ave. at Floyd Bennett Field in Marine Park, (718) 440–3358, www.unive
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