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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.

Beni Malone in Tricksters

Beni Malone in Tricksters

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.

Wonderbolt's Tricksters

Wonderbolt's Tricksters

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.

Josh Munden got more then he bargained for when he signed on to work at Club Med Turks & Caicos. So did Daniela, who was transferred to a new location from Club Med Brazil. The Newfoundlander and Brazilian met in 2002, he was the Chief Catcher – having already clocked 4 years – and she was a Flyer working at the circus. “After working, practicing and performing together for 3 weeks, it was obvious we were in the wrong relationships. We fixed that right away,” Josh shares proudly.

Josh Munden

Josh Munden

Josh’s interests in travel were sparked after “a student exchange program in Cuba for 4 months,” offers Daniela. She was led to Club Med because of her educational background in Restaurant Management though she applied herself with the kids and sports going on as well. And, “it was as soon as we made our first ‘catch’ that got us hooked,” Josh exclaimed.

With more then two decades of aerial acrobatic experience, Josh was a competitive gymnast for 7 years with Cygnus and Daniela has been involved in everything from ballet to swimming and even the Brazilian martial art, Capoeira. “All you have to do is see [it] and you will understand where the acrobatics come from, it’s like nothing I’ve ever seen,” compliments Josh, who has some unbelievable career highlights himself. Wanting to be a stunt man since childhood, Josh worked to make the dream come true and appears in Nelly Furtado’s Forca video and on an episode of Mutant X. He’s also performed with Circus Sublime and was a rigger for Britney Spears in Toronto.

Daniela Munden

Daniela Munden

The duo returned to Newfoundland, establishing ACRO-ADIX to teach acrobatics to anyone interested in the challenge and experience, not to mention the fun, in a safe environment; eventually determining if students are flyers or catchers. “In my opinion, the flyer is the show, they throw the tricks, and are the ones that have to look tight and clean in the air. The catcher is the finisher; it’s all on their shoulders. They call the timing; they’re the quarterback of the team,” Josh explains.

“It’s just like dancing in the air, the catcher and flyer need to work together, trusting each other,” Daniela adds.

The timing couldn’t be better for ACRO-ADIX, “because the aerial arts are booming thanks to Cirque du Soleil who work hard to make their performers perfect and they need more for future acts,” says Daniela, adding athletes are starting younger. In fact, age is one of many ‘qualities’ that don’t even play a factor. Josh and Daniela have taught an 85 year old all the way down to their daughter, Luna, who started at 2. They’ve also had deaf students as well as autistic youth, and a blind 11 year old from Alaska up on the trapeze. “It’s just a great way to be fit, feeling free,” Daniela says, “I challenge myself and guide students to succeed safely on their own terms.”

Becoming an aerial artist can also be as big or small a commitment as the student wants to make it. Having been asked to audition for Cirque twice already, the duo has the connections needed to help their students achieve real goals and build careers. Or, flying on the trapeze can be more of a hobby or just a personal fitness method. Of course, “like any sport or physical activity, the better shape you are in, the better off you will be. But just doing this activity is going to get you in good shape,” Josh points out. It’s a full body work out and entertaining at the same time.

More information including class times and registration is available at http://www.acro-adix.com or by calling 743-3618. ACRO-ADIX is at 161 Thorburn Road and 2 hour classes are $30.00, with additional drop-in weekend programs like Fun Fly Day! Classes for flying trapeze and bungee trampolines are offered 3 times daily, 5 days of the week (they will be outside to accommodate the ideal 40’ clearance). The Munden’s hope an indoor location will be determined in the near future but will take advantage of every nice day. They’re also planning a show for the end of the summer featuring students and hope to perform in a few themselves. There are more goals too, setting up the euro-bungee trampoline at the Regatta, Sea Hawks half time shows, fundraising opportunities and getting schools involved.

The Munden's

The Munden's

Josh and Daniela Munden couldn’t be a more dedicated pair and both agree there is nothing more rewarding than having a positive impact in people’s lives. “If Cirque du Soleil is coming back and doubling shows, that means there’s an interest,” and ACRO-ADIX is the first of it’s kind in Atlantic Canada, “so the sky’s the limit,” according to Josh. And he just might be right.

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