FYI Vol. VIII, No. 6

Questions Remain About the Future of the Big Apple Circus

At this point in the developing saga that is the Big Apple Circus, we know more about who and what is out than what is in. West Hyler who had been contracted to direct the new big top production has been removed, as has his entire team of designers, composers, and most of the acts that had been previously contracted for that show.  Since all of these people had been working for a year to develop a theme and scenario for the new show they may, like ringmaster Stephanie Monseu, and clowns Mark Gindick and Adam Kuchler, sue the new management for breach of contract.  This may also include some of the acts dropped from the show most prominently Housch ma Housch, a highly sought after clown in Europe, who turned down other offers to reserve a year in his schedule for the Big Apple.  Hyler was informed by telephone of the decision to replace him just a month before the new show was set to premiere.  By that time the set for his version of the new production had already been built and the costumes designed.

As for management Greg Walker continues as the CEO.  He is also the president and COO (Chief Operating Officer) of Remarkable Entertainment which is a managing operator of the BAC.  One of its investors is Randy Weiner, whom the New York Times once dubbed “the leading impresario of nontraditional theater in New York,”  and “the mad genius of night life” by the Wall Street Journal.  Weiner’s fame comes from his night club productions most notably the cabaret/circus/dinner show titled Queen of the Night which played in the space once occupied by Billy Rose’s Diamond Horseshoe.   This investment group replaced Neil Kahanovitz and his investors who had fallen into serious debt.  Kahanovitz’s financiers walked away and left him personally exposed financially. Remarkable Entertainment  jumped into the breach, making it a powerful force in the scheme of things financial and potentially creative.    It is rumored that Kahanovitz wants to get back in.  To do that he will have to raise more money.

Recognizing that there are not enough markets to go to where they can charge the kind of prices they need to in order to make a profit the show is now planning an extended run in Lincoln Center. There will be no tour following that engagement. Based on an assessment of the sincerity and circus experience of the people now in  charge of the creative side of production, at least one observer believes the show can do well there through the holiday season but is skeptical of how well it will do in January when the weather is iffy at best.

As for the proposed arena show, its director always felt it was perhaps more ambitious than Kahanovitz realized. It was booked into markets the show had never played before, so without the name recognition of an entertainment like Ringling it was always a gamble.  “I had hoped they were ready and willing to run into some red ink for the first year or two.  I felt it needed to be built over several years if it was eventually to succeed.  Expecting to break even in a new market the first time was unrealistic.”

As for Kahanovitz,the director points out that it never occurred to him that he would not continue. It was surprising. “Everything stopped at Neil with every aspect of show, so that caught me by surprise.”

Creatively the new big top show that will play Lincoln Center is being produced by Jack Marsh who holds the title executive director. He is also the artistic director of Circus Flora in St. Louis.  He has been floating the idea that since (in his vision) Flora and the Big Apple have a lot in common they should combine their assets to the advantage of both.  Since Marsh’s mother Cecil MacKinnon has been the author and director of Circus Flora for many years, the new Big Apple production will be under her guidance.  The show will be a new creation, “leaning into New York City as the home of the Big Apple Circus.”