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story.lead_photo.caption Circus Oz is showing at the Walton Arts Center through Sunday.

Step right up, one and all, to see one of the greatest shows on Earth!

Well, I don't know about that, because I haven't seen all the shows on Earth. But I have to say what Circus Oz is offering up is pretty great.

FAQ

Circus Oz: Straight Up

WHEN — 8 p.m. today; 2 & 8 p.m. Saturday; 2 p.m. Sunday

WHERE — Walton Arts Center in Fayetteville

COST — $25-$65

INFO — 443-5600 or waltonartscenter.org

The animal-free circus from Down Under returned to Fayetteville and is performing at the Walton Arts Center through Sunday. I know not everyone out there has seen a traveling circus before, but I've seen more than a few in my day and I've got to admit, Circus Oz is one of my favorite experiences.

From the first moments of the show, the cast of 11 quirky performers prepare the audience for their silly humor as they come marching in to the auditorium to the cacophony of the instruments they're "playing" -- if you can call it that... But don't worry: The humor and musical ability only go up from there. Although centered around the acrobatic skills and amazing feats of the performers, they all play instruments there on stage as well. I've seen acts set to music before, but watching the cast switch back and forth between instruments and stunts added another layer of entertainment to the show.

Unless you just have absolutely zero experience seeing any type of acrobatic display, you'll likely recognize some of the stunts: flying acts, juggling, the cyr wheel and impressive acts of strength and balancing. But Circus Oz brings their own flair and kooky Aussie humor to even those stunts you may have seen before, along with plenty of new tricks you won't be able to take your eyes off.

Set under a double-arched truss rather than a Big Top, the rigging, lights and live music give the show a very modern feel. Perhaps even more modern though, is the cast. It has been a goal of Circus Oz since their inception in 1978 to pursue equality and diversity. Sitting in the audience, it didn't immediately click in my mind, but sometime during the performance I realized I wasn't looking at a stage full of the typical body types you would expect to see in such a physical show.

Now don't get me wrong -- every person in the cast is incredibly strong, fit and limber. But at Circus Oz, you're not watching exclusively buff, masculine men catching and supporting willowy, feminine women. There are men and women of all shapes and heights in this show and in a way, seeing this deepened my connection with the spectacle before me. Instead of feeling a divide between audience and the super-humans on stage, it was more a sense of we're all here together.

Wednesday's audience seemed a little timid with their applause, but plenty of audible reactions in moments of shock and amazement announced they were engrossed. A joke here and there may have bordered on PG-13, but most of the performance was perfectly safe for kids -- with a few moments being obviously aimed at the audience's youngest members. I cheered, held my breath, laughed and was truly amazed by Circus Oz and really, what more can you ask for in an evening of entertainment?

NAN What's Up on 02/17/2017

Print Headline: REVIEW: Circus Oz

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