The worst thing about Lone Star Circus' annual Cirque Banquisté! is that it only happens once a year, for a few performances after Christmas.
LSC is a school that trains performers in the circus arts, although oddly, the only local people in this year's edition are hula hooper Jesse Patterson, contortionist Cassondra and the clown duo of Slappy and Monday.
Not that we're complaining. The acts involved this year are solid, even if the overall spectacle is lacking a bit if you're used to big-budget circus events like Cirque du Soleil or Ringling Bros.
Created and directed by Fanny Kerwich, an eighth-generation member of a French circus family, the show uses the intimate, proscenium space at Rosewood Center for the Family Arts, home of Dallas Children's Theater. Silky fabrics adorn the side stages, and silks and ropes hang over the audience, from which some of the aerial acts dazzle.
Matthew Richardson of Atlanta thrills with the "Roue Cyr," a giant hoop in which he rolls on the stage, and the aerial straps, along with aerialist Simone Marina Lazar of Chicago. Russian juggler Gena Cristiani also offers several wow moments, especially considering that we usually see men doing the juggling act.
For feats of contortion and strength, Lone Star Circus instructor Cassondra does her part in giving the audience mental owies in our stretch muscles, as does elegantly sculpted Cuban hand balancer Ricardo Sosa, who, without speaking, reminds everyone of that perennial New Year's resolution: Get to the gym. Often. And never stop going.
The Argentinean Laurino Brothers do the "Risley Act," in which the smaller one balances on the hands and feet of the stockier brother. And Russian Kirill Rebkovets induces the most gasps in the "Rolla-Bolla" act, balancing on a board that is atop a series of rolling cylinders.
As for the Chilean dog act Cartoon Poodles, it's cute, but it's hard to be a dog lover and watch poochies dyed unnatural colors (some are cotton candy pink, others are natural white and black), I don't care how safe the dye is. But in jumping through hoops and climbing a ladder and leaping into a safety net held by the handlers, as if escaping a burning building, it's pretty adorbs.
And of course you can't have a circus without the funny, which comes courtesy of Slappy and Monday (who aren't quite as polished and funny as they were in last year's show) and clowns Nic Rainone ("Zerp") and Jeff Gordon, who goes by the name Mr. Gordoon. The latter has a particularly funny routine involving a roll of toilet paper and a hand-held leaf blower, and gives us a big case of the smileys with a soapy bubble bit.
Guiding us through the show is actress and singer Liz Mikel, certainly a local celebrity, who offers plenty of sass and cheer, and displays some physical comedy skill. The producers had the good sense to give her a few songs, too.
At the end, balloons descend from the ceiling and goose bumps are given. The magic of the circus is what it's all about.