If you attend the “Boom A Ring” circus on Coney Island and don’t have a good time, you don’t have a soul.
I say that because it had been 19 years, give or take, since I last saw a circus, and as I entered the big top for the first time as an adult, I wondered if I’d outgrown the juvenile passions to which the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey performance caters.
Lo and behold, I had not. Contrary to what others might think, I’m pleased to say that the “Boom a Ring” extravaganza proves that I’m still young at heart, which is more than I can say for the curmudgeonly review by my colleague Thurston Dooley III.
Going to the circus is not just a mandatory chore for parents. Though heavily merchandised now, the spirit of P.T. Barnum’s uproarious contribution to popular culture pervades the tented spectacle and offers a much-needed break from routine evening excursions, like dinner and a movie.
The cirque’s main appeal are the stunts with a high risk factor. Nothing says “fun” like watching another human imperil his own life. The Los Scolas trio is poised under fire on the rotating double gyroscope. And the element of danger is even more thrilling in the antics of Liina Aunola and her flight on the chair swing and rope.
As they say, you’ll pay for the entire seat, but you’ll only need the edge.
It’s not all an adrenaline rush, however, and its best moments actually come during more subdued interludes.
The clown Justin Case is the undisputed star. His ability to balance on a bicycle on his head makes him the greatest cyclist alive (take that, Lance Armstrong). He’s also offers some much-needed comic relief. While hopping over and around a member of the audience lying prone in the ring, he displays a ribald sense of humor that, though definitely in the sophomoric sphere, is charming (the French accent helps).
If there’s any aspect of the “Boom A Ring” that won’t resonate with adult sensibilities, it’s the animal acts. Children will no doubt disagree with this sentiment, but, frankly, the appearance of elephants and tigers result in duller segments. To see powerful, exotic animals so well-trained that they stand on their hind legs is, in the abstract, an impressive display of man conquering nature, but it’s not quite exciting.
Dooley, through his cranky screed, makes some valid points that the seating and layout are imperfect, but he exaggerates their detriment. Yes, you’ll have to crane your neck at times, but focusing on those peccadilloes shows how deep the critic had to dig before finding a tiny bit of buried refuse.
The bottom line is that the two-hour Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey show packs more thrills than a spin on the Cyclone — and for only $10 a pop, costs only two bucks more than that fleeting, whip-lashing ride.
It would still be a bargain at twice the price.
Coney Island Boom A Ring [West 21 Street between the Boardwalk and Surf Avenue, (201) 507-8900], through Sept. 7. Tickets, $10-$65. For info, visit www.ringling.com.