The Piccadilly Circus comes to Hampton University Convocation Center March 22-23. The circus features animals, clowns and acrobatics. (Contributed, Courtesy of Piccadilly Circus / March 21, 2013)
By Sam McDonald
March 22, 2013
Hampton, VA--The slogan used by the Piccadilly Circus seems, at first glance, redundant. "The fun circus," its website proclaims.
Isn't every circus intended to be fun?
Well, sure. What the line suggests, though, is a back-to-basics approach to fun-and-games under the big top. The Sarasota, Fla.-based Piccadilly — which borrows the name of the famous London roundabout — aims to give good value, an all-ages appeal and classic circus thrills.
There's nothing newfangled about the troupe that's ready to give five performances inside the Hampton University Convocation Center on Friday and Saturday.
"It's intimate, a one-ring show," said Zack Garden, general manager of Piccadilly and a third-generation circus man. "You're very close to the action," he said, speaking over the phone from Myrtle Beach, S.C. "It's a very homey feeling. We do a lot of audience participation and eventually you get to come down into the ring and join in on the fun."
Most of the familiar elements of a circus experience are included with the Piccadilly show — just scaled-down somewhat.
Garden said the show travels with about 65 people, including 20 performers. Those include clowns, aerialists, daredevil motorcyclists, a 12-year-old contortionist and a magician who performs tricks with a lively white tiger. A girl goes into a cage. She disappears and the tiger materializes in her place.
"The other day, a fella told me, 'I think I know where the girl went, but where did the tiger come from?'" Garden said. "I told him, 'It's magic.'"
For Garden, the animals in the show are the stars. While he didn't mention elephants, he did say camels, a zebra, horses and monkeys will be part of the fun.
The beasts are part of what makes circus work rewarding, Garden said.
"My passion is working with the animals," he said. "Growing up in the circus business, I was around them all the time ... I love working with the animals and I love seeing the smiles on the kids' faces."
He offered a piece of advice to parents considering a Piccadilly adventure. "Families with kids should show up early," he said. "That way, they'll get a chance to meet some of the animals."
Want to go?
What: Piccadilly Circus
When: 4:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Friday, March 22; 1:30, 4:30 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, March 23
Where: Hampton University Convocation Center, 700 Emancipation Drive, Hampton