What a blast! I’m talking the Moscow Circus. No big top. No sawdust, lions, or tigers. But Wow! What a night. First: the audience. Russian women, mostly grandmothers, dressed to fucking kill. Hair as high as an elephant’s eye. Ok. Not quite. But I hadn’t seen this many tortuously teased, blown out, bottle blondes in forty years. Fabulous. And oh! The irridescent blue eye shadow, the spiky silver heels and big-time fur. My favorite? A floor-length cotton candy pink mink.
The “natural look” hasn’t quite made it as far as Brooklyn’s Brighton Beach. No, sirree. Because it really is another country out here. Not like Russia now. Probably not like Russia ever. But haunting in the way it clings to its old-fashioned status symbols, its heavy peasant food, and language. There wasn’t a word of English spoken anywhere.
Then there were the kids. Crawling, racing, howling, pummeling their way down the aisles towards the stage. No one telling them to sit still or get back to their seats. Like what happens half way through a 14 hour Air China flight from Beijing. When everybody gets up, and wanders around, pretending they’re home. No seat belts or captain’s announcements, not even when the bottom drops out of the sky. I loved it.
The best part of the actual show? I’m not sure. Maybe it was the moment the hula hoop artist accidentally flung a couple of hoops out into the dark and the audience ducked and shrieked. Or maybe it was the strong men in sequined sailor suits …One the size of that huge Irishman in Sexy Beast, the other teeny tiny, who was heaved up into the air, no nets, no spotters, and landed upside down on the big guy’s hands. Or no. I think it was the dog act. Oh yeah, the dog act. That moment when the handler, dressed in traditional felt boots, fur hat, reindeer skin tunic, suddenly throws the puppy up, up, up in the air. And misses. Kidding. Catches him as he plummets down like a stone, barking all the way. The ASPCA would have had a stroke. I also loved the young boy, the ring juggler who kept dropping a ring, bowing, and starting over, dropping a ring, bowing…You get the point. Oh. And lest I forget…The sets. Flimsy white scrims with blown up photos of the golden onion domed St. Basil’s, the red walls of the Kremlin, the Church of the Ascension. Tacky, silly, and absolutely perfect. Perfect precisely because it was imperfect. Because it was not yet another multi million dollar Lady Gaga extravaganza or Cirque de Soleil like spectacle.
It was naif, innocent, entertainment. Something you might have seen on a Russian cruise ship in the 1950′s. And it made everybody, kids and grown-ups, Russians and us, deliriously happy to be there. To see that there is still such joy, such great joy, to be found in things that remain so unutterably simple and human.