Back for its third series of performances in the elegant ZinZanni spiegeltent, Big Top Rock lets young children to experience live music and acrobatics in a venue that feels like an evening of cabaret -- but at a kid-friendly hour in the morning.
If you're not familiar with this fantastic show: the ZinZanni Institute for Circus Arts (ZICA) and Seattle's own Kindiependent music collective have brought together the magic of the circus with the excitement of live music.
Big Top Rock's current run, which opened Dec. 15, features local favorite musicians including Caspar Babypants, The Harmonica Pocket, The Not-Its!, Recess Monkey, The Board of Education, and Johnny Bregar and the Country Dawgs. The show I went to with my kids, featuring Caspar Babypants, was wildly entertaining but we've also had the pleasure of seeing The Harmonica Pocket, Recess Monkey, and Johnny Bregar and I can guarantee the quality of the music will make all these shows well worth it for both parents and kids.
I've come down pretty hard on Raffi and other more traditional kids music in the past for sins such as high-fructose overload of the "Itsy-Bitsy Spider" and its sisyphean journey up and down that waterspout. The Big Top Rock acts are not above occasionally putting their own spin on the old classics but they also bring wonderfully creative originals like Caspar Babypants' "Googly Eyes" and "My Flea Has Dogs."
No less impressive than the music is the marvelous athleticism of ZinZanni's circus acts, which typically feature an amazing ZICA student along with ZinZanni's professional performers. This time we were rewarded with three young performers, 9-year-old breakdancer Sean Steady, tap-dancer Anabel Watson, and aerialist Una Bennett. All three delivered impressive performances but I found Una Bennett's rope act to be the most spectacular. The kids in the audience had already expressed an interest in seeing someone swinging from the top of the tent and Una delivered.
The professional performances are handled with aplomb. Christopher Phi appears in the role of the ringmaster, dancing with Sean Steady and wowing the audience with his hand-balancing routine. Pacific Northwest Ballet principal dancer Ariana Lallone appears as an ice princess dancing in a snowfall center-stage.
I would definitely recommend the show for parents of kindergarten and pre-schoolers (the suggested age is 3-10), but my 9-year-old daughter was just as caught up in it. She did comment that "there are a lot of songs about diapers" and during the pre-show circus games run by ZICA staff members she was a little self-conscious towering over the other kids as they balanced feathers on their hands, jumped through hula hoops, and juggled hats. But after the show, her hair full of confetti snow, she wasn't going to leave without getting her picture taken with Ariana Lallone.
It's a testament to the magic of the performance that it can bring out the little kid in all of us - even very mature 9-year-olds.
If you go ...
Where: Big Top Rock plays at Teatro ZinZanni, 222 Mercer Street, Seattle
Tickets: $19-$24. Buy online or at 206-802-0015. Children 0-12 months are free with paid adult admission.
Tips: Kids are encouraged to sit in the mosh pit in front of the stage. They can be managed by parents during the performance more easily from the chair seating.
When: 10 a.m., doors open (pre-show circus games, snacks, meet the bands); 11 a.m., performance
Schedule of shows/bands:
- Sunday, December 23: The Not-Its!
- Friday, January 4: The Not-Its!
- Saturday, January 5: Recess Monkey & The Board of Education
- Sunday, January 6: Recess Monkey & Johnny Bregar and the Country Dawgs
About the author: John Kubalak is a writer, teacher, volunteer coordinator, raconteur, and scalawag. He does not publish science fiction under the pseudonym Jonathan Black but he does publish a monograph on fatherhood, The Eclectic Dad. He has a son, a daughter, a beautiful wife (and a little dog too!) who are adorable, maddening, zany, and brilliant all at the same time.