There's something heartwarming about hearing the sound of children laughing enthusiastically throughout the huge tent that houses the Big Apple Circus in its annual visit to New York at Lincoln Center's Damrosch Park. No wonder youngsters have such a good time, as do the adults who treat them to this spectacularly entertaining show. Unlike the three-ring circus that plays Madison Square Garden each year, this one-ring extravaganza enables audiences to focus all attention on one attraction at a time, the better to enjoy everything fully.
You'll find plenty of excitement to go around, and there's never a lull. The acts come along with no down time in between and the band keeps up a steady musical beat adhering to this year's "Carnevale!" theme, accented in the opening number of the brightly costumed company. But this is a show steeped in action, not pageantry.
For comedy, for example, there is Barry Lubin as his "Grandma" character. Lubin dresses like a kindly old lady, thereby setting up the unlike-granny movements that keep the youngsters roaring with delight. It's a clever act that's a twist on traditional clowning.
The acrobatic feats of Andrey Mantchev and Virgile Peyramaure are stunning, as is the case with Los Aregos and the Carrillos on the high wire. Particularly impressive are the high-flying members of the Aniskin Troupe, trapeze wizards. And Alesya Goulevich can shake more hula hoops at one time than seems possible in her colorful display of body-wiggling talent.
The animal acts offer special entertainment. Trained dogs are particularly entertaining, as are the Arabian horses that are put through their paces. Hans-Ludwig Suppmeier and Michelle Youens offer a fascinating routine with their camels, although it is quite surprising how much odor the camels emit as they trot around the arena. Air freshener anyone?
In all this is a splendid circus, and the current edition adheres to the high standards the troupe has set in its 26 years of existence. Through January 11 at Damrosch Park, Lincoln Center, Broadway at 63rd Street, $18-$72, depending on performance times and location. Phone: 212-307-4100.