Kathy reviews 'Cirque du Fringe: Sideshow' 

click to enlarge PHOTO BY JOSH SAUNDERS

After 6 consecutive Rochester Fringe Festivals, it's hard to imagine that I've never seen a single "Cirque du Fringe" show. But lucky year number seven broke the streak and I kicked off my fringing this year with this new iteration of the longtime favorite, titled "SideShow."

Show creator Matt Morgan and his wife (and ringmaster) Heidi Brucker Morgan have assembled a team of circus performers from around the world that are as diverse as they are talented: strong men, acrobats, sword swallowers, clowns, jugglers, dancers, and more. The show, performed in the Spiegeltent (beautifully lit by Fringe Lighting Designer Emily Stork in glowing ambers and indigos), strikes a pleasing balance between belly laugh slapstick and stunning artistry, alternating acts that kept a grin on my face from start to finish.

"Cirque" is a little like riding a roller coaster that's wheels have come off — full of twists and turns, thrilling and a little bit terrifying at times. I alternated between sipping my cocktail and biting my nails as performers flipped, spun, and did tricks that made me worry a bit for their safety. But these are pros, and it shows. An aerial dance routine by two Rochester performers, dubbed "Silhouette," was full of grace, poise, and smart choreography. At first glance, the strong men's routine might appear to serve only as eye candy (I'm not mad about it), but from the second row, it was clear the amount of strength, agility, and trust it takes for the duo to lift and flip one another around.

click to enlarge PHOTO BY JOSH SAUNDERS

Some of the audience (me included) also broke a sweat when Matt or Heidi came too close looking for a volunteer. These performers are unabashed, and as they warn at the beginning, unafraid to harass or really do anything for a laugh. Matt is a master at cracking jokes on the fly, even if things don't go according to plan. Heidi's comedy chops are as strong as her vocals, and she crooned the opening tune while hoisted above the crowd. The musical accompaniment is also well worth the ticket price: the duo uses a synthesizer, harmonica, and drum set to create an old-timey feel with a modern spin. If they decide to sell a soundtrack, I'll be the first in line. It's easy to see why this show is sold out year after year.

"Cirque du Fringe: SideShow" will be performed again each day of the Fringe in the Spiegeltent at 7 p.m., with matinees on Saturday, September 15, at 2:30 p.m. and Saturday, September 22, at 1 p.m. Standard tickets are $35, VIP Booths (seats 6) cost $189 and tickets for kids ages 12 and younger are $25. Evening shows are appropriate for ages 13 and up; matinees good for ages 5 and older.

click to enlarge PHOTO BY JOSH SAUNDERS

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