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  Circus 1903 - The Golden Age of Circus at Ford Oriental Theatre

Circus 1903 - The Golden Age of Circus

Ford Oriental Theatre
24 W. Randolph Chicago

In a world premiere event, the producers of the world's biggest magic show, The Illusionists, have teamed up with the award-winning puppeteers from War Horse, to present a thrilling turn-of-the-century circus spectacular. CIRCUS 1903 -The Golden Age of Circus has all the thrill and daredevil entertainment one would expect from the circus, with an exciting new twist. Sensational puppetry puts Elephants back in the ring as never seen before by introducing the largest ever performing African elephant and her baby, along with a huge cast of the most unique, amazing and dangerous circus acts from all four corners of the world, from strong men to contortionists, acrobats to musicians, knife throwers, high wire and much more!

Thru - Mar 26, 2017

Price: $16-$80

Box Office: 800-745-3000

Running Time: 2hr; one intermission

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  Circus 1903 - The Golden Age of Circus Reviews
  • Highly Recommended
  • Recommended
  • Somewhat Recommended
  • Not Recommended

Chicago Tribune - Highly Recommended

"...But the core impulse of this show - actually produced by Simon Painter and only just out on the road - could not be more likable or a better fit for the Oriental Theatre. Williamson, who could use yet more to say, is a huge asset. He delivers a kind of old-school family entertainment that we rarely see these days, and kids respond to him as if they'd never tapped on a screen in their lives."
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Chris Jones

Chicago Sun Times - Highly Recommended

"...As someone who has written often about finding "death-defying" acts both unappealing and unnecessary (a sentiment that has resulted in no lack of angry feedback), just the sight of giant foam mats for several of the acts on the Oriental stage buoyed my heart, and made the whole production instantly more fun-filled and absolutely no less magical or exciting. To be sure, a certain amount of danger still exists in this show, but at least there is the sense that attention is being paid. And that alone changes the aura of this circus for the better."
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Hedy Weiss

Chicago Reader - Recommended

"...In town for a brief stand, this touring show is an odd, endearing amalgam. On the one hand, it's a legit circus adapted for big proscenium theaters, with acts ranging from the respectable to (in the cases of aerialist Elena Gatilova, juggler Francois Borie, and contortionist Senayet Asifa Amare, whose disconcerting dislocations suggest a human CGI effect) the exceptional. On the other hand, it conveys a homespun intimacy, mainly through David Williamson, playing the ringmaster as the gentle but mischievous grandpa you wish you had. The two aspects come together in life-size mother-and-son elephant puppets-works of sophisticated engineering covered in what looks like plain, loose-weave burlap."
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Tony Adler

Around The Town Chicago - Recommended

"...The show is designed to take us back in time, to what appears to be a small town, and the arrival of the Circus. The workers putting up the tent, the equipment and even the "side-shows", so that "children of all ages" can forget about their lives, at least for a few hours and just have a ball! To watch in amazement as the high-wire act defeats the odds. While classified as a play, the only story-telling is the set-ups as created by Ringmaster, Willy Whipsnade (a whimsical , comic touch by David Williamson, who plays well off the kids that he selects from the audience). One of the beautiful parts of this show is in fact, the honest reactions from the children (and one adult) to being part of a trick or sequence. The kids were adorable, and Williamson kept them into the show!"
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Alan Bresloff

Chicago Theatre Review - Recommended

"...At a time when any throwback to a more innocent era is much welcome, this stunning pageant recalls a time when the Greatest Show on Earth would come to town. That period in entertainment history is all but gone now but, thanks to this spectacular, eye-popping production, on its way to New York City's Madison Square Garden, it won't soon be forgotten. Gorgeously lit by Paul Smith, this is an entertaining evening of dazzling splendor under the Big Top."
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Colin Douglas

Chicagoland Theater Reviews - Highly Recommended

"...Hopefully, "Circus 1903" isn't a one and done production. The dissolution of the Ringling Brothers production creates a void in our opportunity to enjoy traditional circus arts (I don't count the Cirque du Soleil as a venue for traditional circus pleasures, whatever its New Age merits). The exceptional array of talent at the Oriental Theatre verifies that great circus acts are out there, waiting to be seen. They just need to be packaged and delivered to eager audiences. A week in a Loop theater is well and good, but we need quality shows like this to come often and stay longer."

Dan Zeff

Third Coast Review - Highly Recommended

"...What gave Circus 1903 its sense of place and time was the elaborate and picturesque set, which romanticized everything, including the act of putting up a tent with a dramatic all hands-on deck tent-rigging scene. There was even a circus caravan, the old wooden kind. The men and women were clad in the clothes of the turn of the century and when they came out in costume, it was with full classic sparkle and feathers. Nothing was out of place on stage, except maybe for a set of mysteriously unused rolling globes. All of the warmth and character of the big top during the height of its power was evident, ironically displayed in a 180-degree fashion towards the audience and not in the dynamic 360 degrees of a ring."
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Kim Campbell

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