Reviewed by Sara Eisenbaum

From the first rhythmic drum to the last bow, Cirque Shanghai was an exhilarating roller coaster, threatening to never slow down. The audience was rather abysmal which caused the performers to add a bit of ham to the performance. How they managed to be humorous while balancing all their weight on their big toe or being flung into the air on stilts will remain one of life’s great mysteries. While there were a couple of snafus it seemed the performers were very diligent in not allowing the mistakes to take center stage. Each time it happened they made amends and redid the stunt. This was an impressive feat especially with an audience that has forgotten the nature of gratitude and granted nary a stray clap.

One of the most striking features of the performance was a young lady who looked no older than 10 or 11. In one particularly jaw dropping pose she was thrust into the air landing on her partners shoulders. That in and of itself is a Copperfield level of illusion, however it didn’t stop there. She took her toe shoes and used her partners shoulders like the perfectly polished ballet floor and proceeded to go on pointe right at the crux of neck and arm. I’ve never seen anything so improbable up close before except maybe for the spouting of a whale and a distant cry of “thar she blows.”

When it seemed that nothing could be more exhilarating, a giant cage ball was rolled onto the stage. The cage was soon filled with motorcycles… one, two three and then four men on motorcycles raced around that tight space over and over again. While the crowd was cheering and watching intently, they soon broke into a fury of noise as a woman rode out and tore into the cage, making that five motorcycles in a cage about the size of a studio apartment. Finally, a cheer from the crowd erupted as people were mesmerized into a trance. By the time the bows came the crowd was on their feet and giving the group the applause they so deserved.

Running Time: 75 minutes with no intermission

At Pepsi Skyline Stage @ Navy Pier, Chicago

Wednesdays at 2pm, 6pm and 8pm; Thursdays at 2pm and 8pm;  Fridays at 2pm, 7pm and 9pm;  Saturdays at 2pm, 6pm and 8pm; Sundays at 2pm and 4pm

Now Playing through September 2nd

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