Seattle's friendly band of firebugs, Cirque de Flambé, is back with a 90-minute revue of pyrotechnical circus acts performed in a lakeside parking lot in Magnuson Park. Directed by Burning Man vet Maque DaVis, In the Shadow of the Giant (ends Sun., Aug. 7; 206-770-7602) is framed as a sort of showdown between a tyrannical ringmaster and his mischievous clowns.
Aside from a few tasteless bimbo jokes, the show is perfect for school-aged kids on summer vacation. First, there's the thrill of staying up late (it starts at 9:30 p.m.); then, the excitement of periodic explosions, flaming jump ropes, and fire leaping out of performers' mouths. And what kid wouldn't love to see two clowns running around with sparks shooting out of their butts?
Children are also more likely than adults to forgive the show's amateurish aspects: numerous dropped props, in expert physical humor, and clunkily ad-libbed lines. According to Cirque's Web site (www.cirquedeflambe.com), it's an all-volunteer circus, and, to be blunt, it shows. Many of the cast members are no doubt graduates of Cirque's Fremont-based workshops—enthusiastic, but still learning their trade. If you go expecting to see performances on a level with what you've seen at Cirque du Soleil or Big Apple Circus, you'll be disappointed. Of course, the ticket prices ($10 children, $20 adults) are about a third of what you'd pay for entry-level Soleil tickets, so it's a fair deal.
No denying the show is a feat of organization and engineering. The onstage cast numbers over two dozen, and on Sunday night, there looked to be at least that many people offstage handling fire effects and safety. The brassy Fremont Philharmonic, led by Fred Hawkinson on trombone, oom-pah-pahed bravely throughout, despite high winds off the lake and clouds of gnats attracted to the lights. And the audience, half of whom forgot their lawn chairs and blankets, sat gamely on the cement, huddling against the chill. None of this mattered a whit to the kids, who were transfixed, fireworks in their eyes.