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Saturday, June 19, 2010

UNIVERSOUL CIRCUS IN NEWARK, NJ

.Tigers, Elephants and Poodles Steal the UniverSoul Circus Show
.Friday, 18 June 2010 16:20 Walter Elliot .NEWARK -
The UniverSoul Circus nearly filled the 40-foot-tall big top Wednesday, June 16 despite cloudy weather at their new stand at the former Lincoln Motel site on Broad Street.
The 17 year-old Atlanta-based UniverSoul Circus' tent was previously set up off the southwestern corner of Irvine Turner Boulevard and Spruce Street. Circus administrators however jumped at the opportunity when the lot bordering NJTransit's Broad Street Station and near Interstate 280 and N.J. Route 21/McCarter Highway became available.
The Newark Bears have occasionally used this lot for overflow parking and performers say this year's UniverSoul venue is more convenient for commuters.
"This seems like a more stable location," said Randall Jackson, one of the circus' high steppers. "It's easier for people to get to."
Jackson, of Atlanta, has a basis for comparison. He explained that he was with the troupe when they stopped at Turner and Spruce last year.
"I worked the lights and sound last year," said Jackson. "My brother, Papa Dok, is a quick change artist."
Jackson was waiting for his cue backstage, dressed in military camouflage fatigues. He and the seven other high steppers were the two-and-a-half show's third act.
He said the 200 performers, stagehands and related personnel are on tour from Feb. 12 into November. Their stays last a week on average before moving on - which leaves no time for sightseeing.
Jackson, however, says he can tell how different the Newark crowd is from other stops - and differences in crowd from performance to performance.
"The audience here is a little more friendly, they want to talk a little bit," said Jackson. "Sometimes we get a younger crowd who get excited with our acts."
The Circus' June 16 performance was filled with an audience of all ages including children from Newark's Lady Liberty Academy and Bloomfield's Watsessing School. There were at least two minibuses of Newark senior citizens in attendance. Joining them were Mayor Cory A. Booker and Councilman at Large Donald Payne Jr.
Booker, no stranger to circus openings, had to leave early. So did Payne - but not before addressing the crowd with Ringmaster Tony Tone during intermission.
"UniverSoul brings quality entertainment to Newark," said Essex County Freeholder Payne in the ring. "It's an honor for them to be here - they picked us. Now I have to go back to City Hall to help make life better for you."
Ringmaster Tone involved the audience with sing-a-longs, shout-outs and selected 15 men, women and children for on-the-spot dance contests.Bengal tigers were one of at least four animal acts, including 10 trained French poodles and elephants. The elephants either came out for several acts and some 30 audience members climbed aboard.
A Chinese eight-member troupe performed acrobatics in the first half and juggled drums in the second. There were also African acrobats and a third group of aerialists who hailfrom the Dominican and Central African Republics.
Tone and ushers also brought out four-foot-diameter beach balls for the crowd to toss around while stagehands broke down equipment.
The UniverSoul Circus will fold its tent after June 20 and when it will head to Connecticut. For more information, visit UniverSoulcircus.com.

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