If you go to the circus for thrills and a sense of danger, Circus Sarasota should prove satisfying and exciting with its 2014 production called “Wonderstruck.”
There is certainly a sense of danger in the crossbow act by Cornel Tell, who aims his bow at a variety of targets in the middle of the ring, which raises the risk factor because it looks like a miss could send an arrow out into the crowd. He pulls five bows at once to pop a series of balloons and then sets up a convoluted contraption that triggers a criss-crossing, back-and-forth series of targets that wind up hitting an object right over his own head.
Erik Niemen, a fast-moving tightrope walker, returns after the 2011 production. He dances across the thin wire, jumps ropes and jumps through hoops. He tops things off with some heightened drama as he attempts to jump high over a piece of fabric blocking him from seeing the wire.
Though she has built a reputation for her graceful aerial routines, Dolly Jacobs and partner Rafael Palacios create quite a lot of excitement this year with a series of strength moves, flips, spins and twists as they float and soar over the ring.
For sheer originality, there is little that matches an act billed as Ballet on Shoulder by Chinese performers Miao Changwei and Lin Deng. It’s essentially a hand-balancing act with a major twist. Lin is a ballerina in toe shoes. Miao lifts and supports her with his arms, as she bends forward and back and then stands en pointe on his shoulders and head, as he helps her do a pirouette.
The show also features the Hungarian juggler Laido Dittmar, who does some masterful work with an increasing number of thin rings. At one point, he tosses eight rings in the air, barely pausing to put one over his head, between his legs or under his arms, before getting them all back into the mix without missing a beat.
Jan Navrátil of the Czech Republic, creates his own sense of energy, lying backwards on a board, and juggling large cylinders with his feet. His act builds until he supports a tall contraption with a series of platforms from which he bounces a ball up one level to the next until it reaches a basket on top.
The Flying Cortes had some troubles Saturday night landing some variation of a triple somersault, just missing on two attempts, but it is thrilling to watch people soaring high over your head in such intimate surroundings.
Caroline Williams is a picture of grace riding two different horses in an act that combines equestrian skill with quick change costume artistry (though those costume changes take too long).
For humor, there are some fun canine antics with Luciano Anastasini and his family working a playful assortment of rescue dogs. Clown Tony Alexis had the crowd laughing with his pratfalls and double takes while playing a drunken maitre d’ trying to serve a patron played by his wife, Jeanette. They returned for a second, extended routine that shifted from trumpets to karate chops. I found it a bit wearying, but the Saturday crowd was eating it up.
Tyron McFarlan, a veteran of the military and Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, has just the right showy style and booming voice as the ringmaster.
CIRCUS SARASOTA: WONDERSTRUCK
Reviewed Feb. 8, Circus Sarasota tent, 12th Street and Tuttle Avenue, Sarasota. Through Feb. 23. Tickets are $10-$50. For more information: 355-9805; circusarts.org