Dallas — “It’s a perfect night for a circus!” exclaimed Dick Monday of The Laughter League as thunder rumbled and the sky unleashed a deluge. Hearty circus fans continued to float in Friday night to The Petite Palace circus tent on the shore of White Rock Lake. Fabric roof panels bowed with the weight of rainwater. Staff used broomsticks to press the panels upward, spilling torrents off the roof and onto the adjacent soggy soil.
A steady drip descended from the tent peak onto a small round stage. Performers swabbed the platform with towels while cracking jokes. They glad-handed the adoring audience, filling time while a featured performer made his way through flood-related traffic jams. Monday careened through the crowd like the madman-clown he is.
Then lights went up, the music got loud, bowlers went flying through the air to be caught on smiling performers’ heads, and the circus was underway.
Clearly circus performers are the source of “The show must go on.” You have to love these people. Try juggling clubs coated with moisture from 95 percent humidity. Yet there was Dario Vazquez doing it, with a few Latin dance steps, too. Make a pyramid from four slippery people? A foursome—professional clown Matthew Morgan and former Groundling Heidi Brucker-Morgan, Slappy (Tiffany Riley) and Monday—considered the risks and thought, “Now that’s a grand way to start a show.”
And up they went, the top clown getting thoroughly dripped on. So did Kerlly Vazquez, who used a fishing net hung from the peak instead of aerial silks. Wearing a swimsuit-like costume, she undulated like a fish and twisted in the netting, freeing herself to roll and swing as if through waves, her poses arcing like a leaping porpoise.
Not everything was so accidently thematic. Slappy and Monday presented classic clown silliness with colleague Julio Ramazini, featuring just enough of the unexpected to keep the audience on its waterlogged toes. Plates and hubcaps were spun while tumbling, balls were tossed and caught in improbable places, scarves and cigar boxes were juggled, and Slappy spewed fake tears all over the audience.
“Magic Mike” Williams took the classic shell game (which cup is it under?) to ludicrous levels with a fine comedy patter. Flashing hula hoops were spun (Megan McKenyon), Lily Morgan tap danced to The Andy Griffith Show theme song, and Katie Hayes sexily scampered up and down hanging silks.
Matthew Morgan and Heidi Brucker-Morgan, co-creators of The Petite Palace along with Dario and Kerlly Vazquez, aim to revive the grand tradition of slapstick and clowning, honoring past traditions but applying new spins. They presented a fake animal taming act, did creative group juggling and human pyramids, and assorted nonsense too insane to explain.
All of the show was made even more charming by being just a few feet to a few yards away. Recruitment of audience volunteers for stage acts was frequent, but never once was anyone humiliated or embarrassed, so feel free to sit on the front row, especially if you have kids.
The Morgans present a 9:30 p.m. show, The Princess Wendy Late Night Tease Room, on weekends following the circus. Described as “comedy, burlesque, and sexy circus hosted by a sassy, wine drinking children’s birthday party princess,” it has gained effervescent reviews from around the country.
The deluge continued and the following Saturday and Sunday shows were canceled. Nearly an entire weekend of matinee and evening shows was lost. Ultimately, the tent had to be taken down and relocated—a costly task. Profit margins in small circuses are notoriously slim. Give these fine intrepid folks a hand by attending their last round and spreading the word.