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When the circus comes to town

Saturday afternoon was cold, dreary, rainy and utterly gloomy. And then the gray shrugged off and the world burst into color, with upbeat music, dancing, acrobatics and comedy.

The transformation was due to a small tent set up in Cunningham Park that is the home to the Big Apple Circus through May 27.

Monday the clown walked around the one-ring tent shaking hands, playing with kids and getting the audience warmed up with a bit of juggling before the show kicked into high gear.

After Ringmaster Paul Binder and singer Dinny McGuire got the music going, Grandma, who had taken a three-year hiatus from the Big Apple Circus, burst through the rear entrance on an oversized bicycle. The clown most closely identified with this special circus made her way around ring and performed some physical comedy as a 50s-style diner was set up.

The Big Top Doo-Wop extravaganza was soon underway, and dancers (who seem to mostly be acrobats) dazzled the crowd with stunning leaps, Elvis and Big Bopper impressions and colorful costumes.

Monday returned to the stage, this time as television host Ed Sullivan to introduce the South American Olate family and their trained dogs. The clever canines marched around on hind legs, jumped over poles, worked with each other to move giant drums, and made the children attending howl with delight.

When the dogs left the stage they were followed by Katja Schumann and equine wonders in “The Land of the Wild Horses.” With the close seating, the horses caused kids in the first few rows to jump back in their seats as the large beasts came trotting by.

After another interlude with Grandma, Regina Dobrovitskaya and Valdis Yanovskis sauntered to the center of the ring where a cable was lowered. They were lifted in the air and simply glided through a series of complex maneuvers while a love theme was playing through the sound system.

As they left the ring, bicyclist Justin Case, a native Australian who speaks with a French accent, made his entrance. After an amusing introduction, he solicited a volunteer from the audience, and proceeded to cheerfully terrorize the man who laid on the floor in fear for not just his life, but for the lives of his future children as Case bounced on a unicycle between the man’s legs.

After a musical interlude by Slappy, a Doo-Wop clown, the first act was closed out by an amazing horse acrobatic routine by a seeming-elderly couple who literally stopped the show.

And if you thought the first act sounds interesting, then you need to check out the second. The circus was wonderful, appropriate for even the smallest children, and left the adults just as excited and fulfilled.

Showtimes are 6:30 p.m. weekday evenings, 12:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays, weekday matinees at 11 a.m. and a Memorial Day matinee at 12:30 p.m. Tickets are available through ticketmaster by calling 212-307-7171,, S&S Oakland Card & Gift Shop, 221-02 Horace Harding Blvd., Bayside, or the circus box office.

For groups of 15 or more or for wheelchair accessible seating, call 800-922-3772.

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