Thursday, August 11, 2004

Fielder’s Choice
By Barry Burleson

Great show

Pam and I took a short road trip Saturday – to the Gold Strike in Tunica. It was worth the drive. No we didn’t win. We didn’t go to gamble.

We went for the new show, Balagan, which debuted July 30 at the Millennium Theatre.

The invitation to attend the production’s grand opening, spend the night and dine in one of the restaurants there came in the mail about a month ago. The Gold Strike sent the invitations to all area editors/publishers, I guess. We couldn’t go that particular weekend. There was a schedule conflict.

So, I called and asked about the August 6 date, and they were kind enough to oblige. Our children were scheduled to visit my family in Alabama, so it would be a chance for a rare “date” – just the two of us.

Balagan – headlined as “magical, mysterious and mesmerizing” – was all of those and more. The popular cirque-style show featured astonishing aerial acrobatics, comedy, amazing choreography and magnificent music.

The creator of the show is Misha Matorin, the son of the former director of The Moscow Circus and a veteran aerialist. He uses an international cast of talented young professionals to create an imaginary world onstage.

Matorin said, as quoted in the magazine “Jackpot,” “Our performers are international artists from Russia, China, America. They are highly professional and have trained for years and years. Balagan is as aesthetic as it is artistic, with outlandish character, clowns, fanciful creatures, unusual music and skilled performers offering feats of beauty.”

The entertaining performance runs through October 23 at the Gold Strike. I would highly recommend it. There are no Tuesday and Wednesday shows.

The opening segment grabs you. An aerial athlete uses fabric suspended from the ceiling and twirls his body through the air. He also flies over the audience. His strength and energy are amazing.

Another highlight is the cube act. A talented performer showcases agility and power as he moves around with and balances a cube made out of steel four times his size.

There are two performers who literally go head-to-head, one on top of the other, in another thrilling balancing act.

There are a good unicyclist and some impressive juggling, mixed with comedy.

There’s a group of extremely talented gymnasts who dive through hoops, one after the other. The hoops go higher and get smaller.

There’s a young lady who stacks chair onto chair onto chair and balances on each one, all the way to the top.

The closing segment of the entertaining show is another aerial artist, and it’s breathtaking – particularly the ending as he drops head first from the ceiling toward the stage floor, just missing contact.

And don’t sit on the very front row if you don’t want to run the chance of participating. A man from the audience was asked to join the performers on stage for one “disappearance” act. He was embarrassed but a good sport through it all.

Balagan received a well-deserved standing ovation from the large crowd in attendance. It’s an impressive production.

I’m still amazed at the growth of Tunica, and the atmosphere there in general. You’re driving through the Delta, by fields and more fields, with huge billboards advertising the casinos and then suddenly, the casinos themselves appear. And there’s new business and residential development each time I pass through the area.

And where do all of these visitors come from? We followed two vehicles with Alabama tags on our route to the Gold Strike. I saw others from Tennessee, Illinois and Missouri – just to name a few.

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