Alas poor P.T. Barnum and the Feld family who followed; forget about Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey. The American traveling circus and its three rings, collection of creepy clowns and oddities, and reportedly mistreated lions, tigers and elephants is no longer the greatest show on earth.
Instead, Cirque Italia’s Water Circus combines traditional European-style circus artistry with modern technology in its 2018 all-new Circus Gold traveling show, “Aquatic Spectacular.” Under its blue and white big top tent is a 1,600-seat climate-controlled auditorium and a custom-designed 35,000-gallon water stage with a dynamic lid that lifts 35 feet into the air, producing curtains of rain and fountains amid a laser light show. Among its troupe of 30 highly-skilled performers are aerialists, high-wire performers, acrobats on a slack wire, twin jugglers, a (G-rated) pole dancer, roller skaters and a contortionist from around the world. Among their native countries are Argentina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Cuba, Hungary, Italy, Mexico, Portugal, Romania, Russia; a few even live in the U.S.
The Sarasota, Florida-based Cirque Italia opened in 2012, founded by Italian entrepreneur Manuel Rebecchi who came to the U.S. in 2003. The entertainment company’s 37-year-old president and owner is from the family that owned the internationally renowned Circus Orfei; his grandmother Moira Orfei was known as the queen of the Italian circus and his uncle Massimiliano Nones was an award-winning circus trainer.
Florida native Chanté DeMoustes has been the company’s chief operating officer and performance director from the start. Firmly ensconced in the art of dance since early childhood, she also holds a business degree. “I was not a fan of the circus. I had no interest in it,” she recalled, referring to the American circus her parents took her to once. Still, when Rebecchi offered her the opportunity to rebrand the circus’ image, she accepted, intrigued by the “new chapter that popped up when I was (age) 24.”
Now, six years later, DeMoustes “is involved in every aspect of our shows — from site selection to advertising, to talent search around the world, to what concessions will sell, to choreography, to ticket sales,” noted Tim Orris, who handles the company’s media relations. “For someone so young to be running three multimillion-dollar operations [Cirque Italia has three different shows] is unheard of in the entertainment industry.”
Unlike traditional American circuses, said DeMoustes, Cirque Italia is “classy and elegant,” similar in branding and performance style to Cirque du Soleil, the Canadian company that reigns as the world’s largest entertainment producer. However, she pointed out, Cirque Italia is more affordable — including a $30 ticket that admits a child with a paying adult. It is also more family-friendly and offers greater interaction with the audience via what DeMoustes calls a pair of New Age clowns, Alex and Yvinson Acero, who look more like mimes than clowns and act as ringmasters. They engage with the audience — “pulling everybody together,” according to DeMoustes, and convey safety information in a fun way. They caution children not to try the acts at home, reminding them that the performers are professionals.
In addition to stretching their legs during intermissions, patrons may get their faces painted, buy a snow cone or funnel cake, and get pictures taken with a baby dinosaur, who is not only extinct but also a puppet, thus conforming to Cirque Italia’s no-live-animals policy.
An opportunity to take photos with and get autographs from performers will follow the show in the concessions tent.
Those who have seen previous incarnations of Cirque Italia – it has come to Gaithersburg annually since 2013 — will see an all-new show. The theme and the music change every year, DeMoustes said. Even repeat performers will have “new gigs,” in terms of routines and costumes.
Cirque Italia shows—which last two hours with a 30-minute intermission — will be presented May 24 to 28 at the Montgomery County Agricultural Fairgrounds, 16 Chestnut St., Gaithersburg. Shows start at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, May 24 and Friday, May 25; 1:30, 4:30 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, May 26 and Sunday, May 27; and 1:30 and 4:30 p.m. Monday, May 28. Tickets range from $10 to $50, with one free child admission with every full-priced paying adult ticket in levels 2 or 3; the on-site box office is open 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. on show days, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on non-show days. Visit www.cirqueitalia.com/tickets or call 941-704-8572