“Bello Mania” is a Belly Laugh: Show Review by Margaret Hart
On Friday night, I saw a fantastic live show at The New Victory Theater, a jewel among the smaller, more intimate theaters, located in the heart of Broadway and Times Square in New York City. “Bello Mania,” is a high-flying, hysterically funny, circus-acrobatics, show starring Bello Nock, a comic daredevil who TIME magazine has called, “America’s Best Clown.”
If you’ve been to the circus in the last ten years, you’ve probably seen Bello. Among his distinguishing features, you’d no-doubt remember his wild hairdo. It is reddish-blonde and it stands straight up, about 12 inches, like a bundle of wheat, on top of his head. He has performed with the Big Apple Circus and Ringling Bros., and won numerous awards, including the circus world’s highest honor, the Gold Clown, presented to him in 2011 by Princes Stephanie of Monaco, at the Monte Carlo International Circus Festival.
His new show, Bello Mania, opens with Bello riding a bicycle down the center aisle of the theater up to the stage. He is assisted by an unsuspecting audience member who Bello asks to lift the bicycle up onto the stage, where it immediately falls apart, to the chagrin of the audience member who plays along with the stunt. The handlebars fall off. Then a wheel. Then the seat. While the audience of kids and adults erupt in laughter, Bello reconstructs the bike within 30 seconds to form a unicycle which he has to figure out how to get onto and ride (the seat is taller than he is).
All throughout the show, Bello connects with the audience through verbal and non-verbal cues, and by recruiting audience members to come on stage and assist him. In one routine, he plays musical chairs with audience members, and in another, he recruits a young woman who, after a series of failed attempts, pops a balloon he holds over his head, with her imaginary bow and arrow, also made out of a balloon. One of his best stunts comes after he presents the woman with a thank-you gift: a bouquet of heart-shaped flowers he whips up, as well as a large red balloon like the one she popped, to take back to her seat. The balloon is booby trapped, releases from her grip, and float up to the ceiling of the theater. Bello retrieves the balloon for her by climbing up a 40-foot pole using only the strength of the grip of his hands and feet. As he climbs, the pole begins to sway, and when he reaches the top, just inches from the ceiling of the theater, he “accidentally” loses his grip and is hanging by one hand. He then climbs into a small basket on top of the pole, manages to grab the balloon, and slides/falls back down the pole, stopping just in time to break his fall, and present the young woman with the balloon.
His other aerial stunts include bouncing on a specialized trampoline where he falls through the sides, landing upside down with his head stuck in the side ropes, and lots of laughs from the audience. He also performs a high-wire routine riding a micro-mini bicycle across a tight rope. That one really gets me. If you’ve ever tried to ride your own kids’ bikes, you know what a cramped feeling it is, to bend your long legs, and peddle with your knees in your nose, on a bike that’s 10 sizes too small for you. Well, this bicycle is the size of a toy poodle, and he rides it high up in the air, across a tight rope, with nothing preventing him from falling.
To an adult, Bello is an athlete disguised as a lovable, funny, athletic, bumbling Clown. He makes everything he does look easy; that’ because he’s been doing this since he was three years old. He is a descendent of the family that founded Switzerland’s Circus Nock in the 18th Century. So this is in his blood. And I’m sure that beneath his baggy clown costume, he has the body of an Olympic Gold Medal Gymnast. Bello, who is described as a comic daredevil, climbs, jumps, swings, bounces and does just about every athletic stunt you can imagine, most always without any sort of harness or visible protective wires or even mats and cushions. And all the routines are steeped in clown comedy. There’s loads of bumbling to go around. All the more to laugh and cheer at.
The New Victory Theater is a great place to take kids, parents, and grandparents. The theater is beautiful, the seats are comfortable, the bathrooms are spotless (something we mom’s appreciate), it is handicapped accessible, and the box office, front door staff and ushers are friendly and helpful. It really shows that this is a theater which prides itself on entertaining families, and wants everyone to leave with a smile on their face. And ticket prices are affordable.
Bello Mania runs April 4 – 20, 2014. It has a running time of 90 minutes, including one intermission, and is recommended for everyone ages four and older. Tickets are $25, $18, $12, and $9, based on seat locations, with full price tickets starting at $14. The New Victory box office (209 West 42nd Street) is open Sunday and Monday from 11am to 5pm and Tuesday through Satruding from 12pm to 7pm. For more information, and to watch a trailer of Bello Mania, and to purchase tickets, visit the New Victory website.