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Boasting a cast of 14, the latest production from this province’s World class Wonderbolt Circus is called Tricksters. The show, unveiled for a sneak peak in St. John’s, is without disappointment. Those that grew up familiar with early Wonderbolt days have a golden opportunity to feel the magic in its purest form again and with any luck the show will eventually (and hopefully) be available on DVD. Ringmaster Beni Malone performs in his classic, beloved way; signature funny clown hips, on stilts and playing with fire – his cherished charming smile, popping out for a well timed laugh.
Malone is joined in Tricksters by nephew Dash Malone who takes on an anime-style Zoolander appearance, living up to his name, zipping and flipping around the theatre. Also from the family clan is Anahareo White-Malone who returns home from Germany, where she’s very obviously blossomed from training and is a rising international aerialist sensation. White-Malone takes on a number of characters in the show including an uptight foreign woman milling about the audience before the show struggling to find her seat harassing ushers played by Lauren and Jeff Smyth.
That character reappears throughout the show with Champaign. For the second act, in a pencil skirt and high heals she proceeds to perform acrobatics in a hanging hula hoop dangling over the stage with white round Chinese paper lanterns floating around her.
Prior to that standout solo, White-Malone snuck down on white silk ribbons attached to a stage fly wearing a white mask. She was followed down by Josh Oliver in the same piece, whose aerial strength was revealed off the top of the show when he’d been lowered from a hatch in the ceiling on black canvas straps right over the audience. Both performances were beautifully executed, visually stunning and easily trigged tears for some in combination with the soundscape.
The sounds by George Morgan and Bill Brennan were nothing short of outstanding. Speaking with producers at the intermission revealed Morgan made certain percussion elements, such as a wall of more then 7 gongs. A brilliant play fight shared by Oliver and David Mercer graciously shared the spotlight with the Wonderbolt band with class when the four used plastic piping to tap familiar tunes out on their thighs.
Mercer was joined by fellow Gentleman Juggler James Burke as the main through-line characters with Beni Malone. Both attempted to lure Mercer to step away from being fixated by the formulas of a rubrics cube in lieu of their world of make-believe. The second scene featured a touching but comedic shared campfire complete with roasting marshmallows between Beni and the Gentleman Jugglers. All three strategically used vocal exclamations during times of surprise, when Oliver snuck down from a fly and grabbed Mercer by a harness made to look like the back of his shirt for example.
A number of times a big dog popped out on stage to alarm Mercer, Burke and Malone as an especially great way to draw the younger audience in. Also vaguely familiar to the youth was a character that resembled the ever-popular Mary Poppins played by Kat Finck. She impressively lowered on stage holding an umbrella by a wrist strap that was also attached to a stage fly. Finck later reappeared opening the second act with an impressive costume change and diabolo performance. The second act also heats up with an amazing two hoop performance by Allison Collins (Ali Hoops) with Smyth ushers dutifully standing by the fire exits of the Reid.
A clear audience favourite was the vignette including world champion Aboriginal hoop dancer Terrance Littletent who’s joined by Jayson Littletent for vocals and percussion. This is a particularly relevant feature as the show moves from St. John’s to the 5th Annual Kamataukatshiuht Circus Festival. After running from August 19-23rd at the Reid Theatre (matinees Aug 19/20 at 2:00pm), Wonderbolt will take Tricksters to Natuashush and Sheshatshiu before doing a cross-island tour of Arts and Culture Centres in February 2010 after becoming a part of the Vancouver 2010 Cultural Olympics.
For more information about Wonderbolt go to www.wonderbolt.ca. Tickets for Tricksters at the Reid Theatre are available at the Holy Heart Boxoffice or by calling 579-4424.