To achieve the show's "dream" theme, the circus is performed in an "imagination machine" that enables onlookers to visualize the dreams of the cast of characters in the show. A mechanical doll comes to life, balancing and contorting her entire body on one hand. A mélange of acrobats -- reminiscent of a flexible group of oompa-loompas -- jump rope and complete daring balancing acts with great aplomb.
There is no typical clown in this ring. Scott and Muriel, two jokesters with big shoes and an even bigger compendium for mastered illusions, add much liveliness and audience interaction to the show. And the biggest clown of all is the beloved, mischievous Grandma (played by longtime Big Apple veteran Barry Lubin), who deadpans throughout a water-spitting contest with an audience member, serenades men to the tune of "Unforgettable," and never once wipes that big round grin from her face
However, the acts that are the evening's true showstoppers consist of four-legged creatures, ranging from graceful Arabian horses to performing pups, a prickly African porcupine named Porgy, and even a "singing" capybara, Bob. Bob's rendition of Taio Cruz's "Dynamite," an instantly recognizable ditty to those young and old, is a higher point than any of the flying trapeze artists who conclude the show manage to reach.
The Big Apple Circus Band rivals any of those on Broadway, while working twice as hard. And if ringmaster Jenna Robinson's voice is a bit grating in the few moments when she does speak or sing, her enthusiasm for the show is enlivening.
Renaud Doucet's direction and choreography are quite beautiful in the ring, and he frequently lets his cast interact with the audience, who quickly become members of the party.
No expense has seemingly been spared with the creations of set and costume designer Andre Barber, which range from the explosive, fiery leotards of the Shandong Acrobats to the giant mouth that houses the band, which is adorned by an enormous baby's head. A massive plug and outlet keep the imagination machine powered, lending the many oversized cogs and knobs added significance.
Indeed, one's mind can't help but be in overdrive as it takes in this consistently inventive treat, while one's mouth is almost always smiling or laughing at the goings-on in Dream Big.