Circus Has All the Ingredients to Fill the Big Top with Fun

Article excerpt

Circuses bring out the best in everyone, even where professional curmudgeons are concerned. As Julius Caesar wrote, after visiting the Circus Maximus, "I went. I saw. I was conquered." Honest, that's what he really wrote, but an editor changed it for the printed copy of the speech.

Circus Flora had the same effect on me as it opened an 11-day run through May 30 at Queeny Park in St. Louis County, with another 10 days coming up in Forest Park June 3-12.

So what if the script is more than a little corny and some of the action doesn't come off quite as sharply as it should. The evening under the big top had thrills and chills and skills, with laughs for the clowns, gasps for the high-wire walkers, oohs and aahs for the trapeze work and warm affection for the circus's most charming performer, Flora the elephant, who acts like a wonderful combination of elephant and ham.

Flora is a charmer who milks every routine for the last bit of applause, and who does nimble, nifty tricks of all types, from balancing on two feet to sitting on a stool and dealing oversize cards. She isn't as skillful as Ricky Jay, but not many dealers are.

The story of the Baldini family's travels from Italy to California is becoming a little road-weary by now, and it's nice to note that a new production is planned for next year. But no one goes to the circus to hear stories; we go to watch the performers, and Circus Flora's performed well.

Giovanni Zoppe gets things off to a rousing start with a clown routine that turns into some spectacular swing work, brushing the roof of the tent as he soars skyward. …