Circus 1903: A magical trip back in time with astounding talent and puppetry

Circus 1903 is definitely your grandmother’s circus, but in a very good way! If you believe in magic and yearn for a simpler time, then this show, at the Oriental Theatre through March 26, is for you!

We loved every single minute of this two hour long extravaganza (with one intermission) beginning with the ringmaster, brilliantly played by David Williamson, throwing popcorn into the audience.

I barely remember attending the Ringling Brothers Barnum & Baily Circus, now closed, when I was young. At the time, I loved seeing the “wild” animals perform but, now that I’m older, I realize the cruelty involved so was thrilled to see the “animals” at Circus 1903 portrayed in an astounding display of puppetry. Tears came to my eyes when Queenie and her baby Peanut appeared onstage…they were so convincingly real and so creatively imagined. (See clip here!)

Williams informed the crowd that this was the first time that many members of the troupe have been in America. I clapped so much and so hard that I have bruises on my hands and my throat is hoarse from cheering the talented acrobats, aerialists, jugglers and more!

The contortionist, Senayet Assefa Amara, was mind-bending (see what I did there?) and brought the audience to their feet with moves I never knew a human being capable of.

The vintage set design, by Todd Ivins, transported you right back to the Golden Age of the circus in every single way. Even the patter by ringmaster “Willy Whipsnade” was in keeping with the times. His scenes with kids in the audience would’ve made Art Linkletter proud (or, in today speak Steve Harvey with his little “Big Shots”).

I highly recommend this show, presented by Broadway in Chicago, and was thrilled to see it in the beautiful Oriental Theatre at 24 W. Randolph. One of Chicago’s architectural treasures, the theatre’s grandeur rivaled the magic seen on the stage. A win, win!

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