Time is an interesting concept around which to build a show. Its construct is fluid and its possibilities the source of endless imaginative speculation. Circus Flora chooses to embrace this notion in Time Flies, a whimsical story of a tinkerer and his attempts to cross through time and space to save his community.
The story is, naturally, just a thread used to loosely connect the circus acts together across a thoroughly engaging and often breathtaking display of talent. While it is genuinely comic and complete, the connecting thread to the circus acts is also quite thin in many ways (though serving its primary purpose), a slight disappointment for regular attendees. The entertainment, however, is as spectacular as we have come to expect from the company.
Our narrator Yo-Yo, a gold-threaded harlequin, glibly provides exposition and the occasional wise crack as we are guided through the story of the tinkerer from long ago trying to end a drought that has plagued his community. A mysterious man appears and gives the tinkerer a magic box, stating he will have to wait eighty years for the key to open the box and bring the rain. Realizing he hasn’t that much time, the tinkerer decides to fashion a means to jump to the future and discover the key. Will the tinkerer be able to open the box and save the community? Along his journey, the tinkerer stumbles across a variety of circus acts, as well as meeting his grandson and the beautiful and acrobatic dancer he loves.
The time shifting transition is one of the most enchanting moments in the circus. An aerialist dangling in the sky seems to command space and time through her gracefully daring extensions and spins. Soon afterwards, the Flying Wallendas thrill us with their death-defying tightrope work, executing pyramids, headstands, bicycle rides, and a variety of turns that elicit audible gasps from the audience. Then come the acrobatics and animal acts, including the St. Louis Arches and a beautiful silver-grey horse that prances, jumps, and steps in an intricately choreographed dance. Trapeze artists fly by and pygmy goats perform clever and amusing tricks.
The show introduces new performers every season, but longtime attendees will appreciate the year-to-year continuity of the company’s core. Fan-favorites and Circus Flora mainstays Tino, Olinka, Aurelia, Alex, Claire, Alida, and Ysabella of “The Flying Wallendas” anchor the team. Acrobat and trickster extraordinaire Sidney “Iking” Bateman, Andrew Adams, Hovey Burgess, Kyle Driggs, Sasha Harrington, Cassidy Herriott, Heidi Herriott, Adam Kuchler, Cecil MacKinnon (as Yo-Yo the narrator), Jack Marsh, and Andrea Murillo skillfully fill the company. Naturally, the Circus Flora animals join in on the fun with impressive moves of their own.
The company’s protégées the St. Louis Arches join them once again and it is a moment of pure delight to watch how younger members of the audience light up when they see acrobats not much bigger or older than them commanding center stage. This year’s archers include Austin Buhr, Sarah Kuhlman, Chauncey Kroner, Oliver Layher, Malik Leeks, Ollie Lloyd, Finn Mateo McNamee, Sally Sneider, Kyran Walton, and Maya Zuckerman, under the direction of Jessica Hentoff. Many members of the team have grown up under the Circus Flora Big Tent and it’s a joy to see them improve and take leading roles in the act. The company is also joined by the vibrant and captivating aesthetic of The Poemas, with Adrian A., Adrian B., Mariana, and Tommy Chapay, Eric Fernandez, Zach Holmberg, Daniela Prieto, and Martin Rios.
The entire show moves along quickly from act-to-act in an almost overwhelming array of strength, grace, and athleticism. The tinkerer, his grandson, and Yo-Yo are a near constant presence, offering funny jokes and humorous slight of hand as the crew quickly shifts the set for the next act. The band, under musical director Janine Del’Arte and featuring Suzanne Morissette Cruz, Andy Hainz, Abbie Steiling, and Mark Maher, adds atmospheric touches and references the fluidity of time while keeping a steady rhythm for the performers.
There are a few minor issues with the show however, though none are insurmountable. As mentioned, the story could use more connection to the acts, and children younger than three or four and those with hearing problems may find it a bit difficult to follow along. The issue is compounded by a sound system that is less reliable and static filled at times, making it difficult to hear from the edges of the audience seats. Additionally, the venue is already quite warm, though temperatures have not hit their summer highs. The heat can prove distracting to some; luckily everyone can appreciate the spectacular expertise and audience-engaging demeanor of the performers
Circus Flora is an intimate one-ring circus that offers all the thrills and exhilarating feats of a big circus in an up-close and personal venue. Time Flies celebrates the company’s 31st season with a genuinely engaging and awe-inducing show that captures the imagination of young and old. Families with nut allergies may also want to mark their calendars for the nut-free first night performances each year. Season after season, Circus Flora’s family-friendly entertainment brings St. Louis a sense of the magically fantastic that continually impresses.