Sponsored by "Big Apple Circus."
Come See "Big Apple Circus" at Lincoln Center!
“Big Apple Circus” has returned to Damsrosch Park at Lincoln Center for the holidays with shows running now through January 30, 2022. The troupe of award-winning performers (many of whom have been featured on “America’s Got Talent” and “The X-Factor”) will take your breath away with death-defying stunts. We talked with co-producer and Guinness World Record holder Nik Wallenda and Director Philip Wm. McKinley about the show and what guests can expect at “Big Apple Circus.”
Highwire artist Nik Wallenda has roots that run deep in circus arts. “My mom was still performing on the wire when she was six months pregnant with me, so technically, since before I was born!” he jokes. “Performing under the big top is a huge part of my family heritage; it’s where I grew up. My career started there, first as a clown when I was two years old and then on the wire,” he told us. “When I stepped out from under the big top to start pursuing these TV specials around the world, it was always with the goal to bring the same excitement and thrill of those skywalks back under the big top. It’s also been a dream of mine since I was a child to eventually produce my own circus under a big top. Big Apple Circus brought those two dreams together this year.”
Wallenda was the first person to cross the Grand Canyon on a highwire—a title he earned back in 2013. Nicknamed the “King of the High Wire,” Wallenda has 11 Guinness World Records under his belt and his highwire act at “Big Apple Circus” is truly a family affair. “My wire act is about family, honoring my family heritage and working together as a family on the wire. Many of the vintage Wallenda pyramids that we will perform pay tribute to creativity and dreams of my great grandfather, my grandmother, & other members of Wallenda generations before me. They illustrate the importance of family and how we can achieve what seems impossible when individuals work in sync as one unit,” Wallenda explains, “Each element of the act is truly a family effort, including the choreography my wife, Erendira, designs for the act, as well as new exciting elements we develop together to bring to the ring.”
The "Big Apple Circus" Difference
So what is it that makes “Big Apple Circus” stand out from other shows under the big top? “Big Apple Circus” has become an integral part of the incredible arts culture of New York City. I think what sets us apart from other circuses is the diversity of backgrounds that we have brought together in the production of the show. It was always my dream to return to the big top to rejuvenate, reinvent, and revitalize the circus. Our producers and creative directors bring together backgrounds in circus, Broadway and the music industry, as well as other branches of the arts, and this creative collaboration is really bringing together amazing ideas and incorporating new technology while preserving the vintage aspects of the circus arts. I have always wanted to turn the big top into a theatre, and what better place to do this than a few steps from Broadway,” Wallenda tells us.
When asked about the differences between “Big Apple Circus” and other shows, McKinley echoed a similar sentiment. “The Big Apple Circus, the focus is on the individual circus artist and the artist’s skill. There are no tricks and no illusions. There are no edits for television. It is all “real.” This is a European-styled one-ring family circus experience,” he proudly tells us. “Like Olympians, these performers are true athletes. They have spent years developing their talent. Talent passed down from generation to generation. Past performers have lost their lives attempting some of the same acts you will see at The Big Apple Circus. Seeing a man almost cut in half by a double-bladed buzz saw, or a woman manipulating seven metal hoops, or a man balancing on an eight-foot tower swinging through the air, or seven synchronized performing dogs, or a pyramid of highwire walkers twenty feet above the floor on a wire as thin as a nickel. Sheds new light on the meaning of human creativity and daring. The Big Apple Circus is the event of the seasons, where human and animal performers are making the impossible possible every night. It is inspiring to see what human spirit and ingenuity can achieve.”
Journey to Opening
The journey to opening has been a whirlwind—primarily due to the pandemic. “If there is any entertainment that has lasted through time, it is the circus. Through wars, depressions and pandemics, the circus has always survived. The Big Apple Circus has been a New York City icon for over 40 years. The return of The Big Apple Circus would be a positive sign. A sign we are returning to a place of normalcy,” McKinley told us. “When Michael Cohl, Arny Granat, and Nik Wallenda called me and asked if I would be interested in directing The Big Apple Circus relaunch, I did not hesitate for a moment. My answer was “yes.” But how? We were still in the uncharted territory of a pandemic. It was late May/ early June before we got the official green light. A production of this size usually has nine to twelve months to develop the project. We had only four months until opening? How would you find performers at this late of a date? How would you find the creative staff to design and build costumes, sets, lights, sound and video? And do it all safely? The answer came to me from my experience of working with circus artists. Circus artists have a gift: they dream the impossible and make it possible. That became the inspiration for the new show. Making the impossible possible. Why not? No guts. No glory.”
What to Expect
McKinley is no stranger to the performing arts. His past highlights include numerous Broadway productions, including “The Boy From Oz” and “Spider-Man Turn Off the Dark.” He has also worked in shows in Las Vegas (“Le Reve” at Wynn Las Vegas) and has previous circus experience as well (Barnum & Bailey). In addition to McKinley and Walleda’s talents and expertise, individual performers at “Big Apple Circus” hold numerous accolades themselves. “All the acts are standouts. We were fortunate to hire fifteen of the most talented artists from all over the world,” McKinley explains. “Our goal for this season was to search for the individual whose talent stood above all others. This show has something for everyone. There are acts of aerial beauty, jugging and balance skill, life-affirming inspiration, death-defying danger, and classic comedy. Each act inspires an emotion which creates a roller coaster ride of entertainment.”
According to McKinley, in addition to the traditional circus acts and performances, “Big Apple Circus” also features live musicians and an original score. “Musicians will be featured in the show. And the show will feature a trapeze artist who sings live while she is performing the swinging trapeze. In the tradition of the great P.T. Barnum, The Big Apple Circus features all types of talent, and musicians are part of our company of artists.”
Under the Big Top at Lincoln Center
62nd St. & Amsterdam Ave.
NOW THRU JANUARY 30th
Tickets from $25, $35 and $40