Call Bello Nock what you like: comic daredevil, circus performer, slapstick comedian. He's all of them, and there's probably no show in New York right now that parents and kids will have more fun at than the hysterical and thrill-inducing Bello Mania at the New Victory Theater.
Written and directed by Bello's wife, Jennifer Nock, Bello Mania gets your blood pumping with daring acrobatics, high-wire feats, eye-popping lasso tricks, and Bello's comedic, Chaplinesque antics packed into a breathtakingly fun and exciting 90 minutes. Audience members are also invited to take part in the shenanigans.
Matthew Morgan gets the audience warmed up as the show's ringleader and introduces the incomparable Bello, who literally leaps right into action with a tower of blond hair that never seems to fall out of place, despite his high-energy, comic buffoonery on a trampoline.
Bello's daughter Annaliese, who has acquired her dad's fondness for deeds of derring–do, also appears in the show. She performs a beautiful aerial dance high above the stage, and captivates the audience on the tight rope with the help of fellow performer Andrew Pratt. Bello joins them later and somehow rides a ridiculously tiny bicycle on the high wire.
Bronx-born professional cowboy AJ Silver (Angelo Iodice) adds his own special talent to Bello Mania, proving that an urban cowboy can handle a lasso as well as — or better than — anyone from the Wild West. Watch for his astonishing act in which he dances and cracks out his own heart-pounding rhythm section with two bullwhips.
After intermission, get ready for some audience participation. Along with four other unsuspecting men from the audience, I joined Bello and his posse for a game of "Take a Seat," in which we each sat in a square and leaned back onto the legs of the one behind us while our chairs were taken out from under us. The trick generated high-pitched squeals of delight at our expense.
Even more fun is had by a lucky youngster during the "Are You Smarter Than a First Grader?" segment, which pits the brain power of show host Morgan against the far superior intellect of a child audience member.
But what's up with that pole that rises 44 feet in the air above the audience, almost all the way to the New Vic's ceiling? You'll have to go see the show to find out, but rest assured, Bello's final aerial feat will leave you spellbound.
Bello Mania is solid family entertainment, the best of its kind. If you're in the city with kids in tow during the next couple of weeks, lasso some tickets before the Nock family bounces out of town.