Sneak behind the tents and around the Feld Entertainment trailers in the Soldier Field parking lot during the off hours when Barnum's Kaleidoscape is not performing and you might find yourself in the food service tent, where specials of the day include shrimp marinara and tomato-basil fettuccine. You won't find any performers here, though. They're all staying in town, just off the Magnificent Mile, in an extended-stay hotel. The only sign of life back here is a young urchin tooling around on an old Huffy bike, in search of a monkey named Happy. But there are no monkeys to be seen in this circus that boasts precious few animal acts.
It seems appropriate that the first act of this pristine, one-ring circus begins with a waif-like clown named Fanny sprucing up spectators with a feather duster, while another clown instructs yet another on the proper, gentlemanly way to greet a lady. As Act II begins, the clowns are sweeping up the stage so that nary a speck of lint will be seen by the spectators, who lounge upon chairs and sofas topped with red velvet. There is no sawdust to be seen on Kaleidoscape's hardwood floors! In one of the show's final sequences--a breathtaking number wherein the crossbow-wielding Guy Tell fires arrows through a Rube Goldberg-esque contraption and ultimately spears an apple atop his partner Regina Bouglione's head--there's Fanny again, this time with a squeegee, wiping off the plexiglass that protects the audience from potentially errant Tell arrows.
Everything in this show has been carefully plotted and scripted. That goes double for the lemonade, which the production's managing director, Jim Ragona, tests every morning. "It needs to be the proper Kaleidoscape sweetness, and that proper Kaleidoscape sweetness is in my mouth," he says. Ditto for the aroma of the production, a vaguely orange scent that is pumped into the tent during intermission. It even goes for the taste of the cotton candy and, as Ragona puts it, "the amiability of the bathrooms"--which, like the rest of the show, are immaculate.
"Everything about this facility is different," Ragona says of Kaleidoscape, offering that, in a typical circus, performers "dig a hole some place" and you "have to find your own place to relieve yourself. I like clean. I'm into clean. Clean is good."