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Stage Review: Vampire Circus mesmerizes with supernatural skill

The Vampire Circus is more circus than vampire, but the horror theme adds bite to stunts that defy mortal limitations

A name like The Vampire Circus pretty much tells audiences what is in store for them at the Montalbán in Hollywood: it’s a circus of vampires! The only questions are: How much circus? How many vampires? And are the acts any good? Taking the last question first, the acts are astounding, making this one of the most highly recommended Halloween entertainments in Los Angeles this year.

But how much vampire is in Vampire Circus? An opening narration tells us of a circus troop cursed by Count Dracula, and the rising curtain reveals an imposing, eerie castle with stone battlements, skeletal statues, and gargoyles, flanked by tombstones. One of the two clowns resembles an undertaker, and the rest of the performers are decked out in costumes, makeup, and hairstyles that suggest 19-century gypsy vampires updated for modern times. Other than that, this is largely a circus with a seasonal overlay suited to Halloween. The balance is perhaps best illustrated by a recurring musical motif : a few notes of Bach’s famous Toccata and Fugue in D minor resonate briefly before being replaced by a lilting Italian ditty that introduces appearances by the clowns.

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And yet…the vampire element does add bite to our perception of the amazing performances, as they apparently defy gravity and other laws of physics. At one point, a funeral procession leads a coffin on stage, which open to reveal an aerial artist who executes a series of amazing contortions and gyrations while suspended high overhead, and it is at least amusing to imagine that she and her fellow performers can achieve these seemingly incredible tasks because they are supernatural beings back from the dead.

The Vampire Circus Review: Performances

Many acts in The Vampire Circus will be familiar to Los Angeles audiences who saw Paranormal Cirque last year, with a level of performance at least equal and perhaps superior to the exciting work seen there. A pair of roller-skaters on a small, raised, circular platform enact a high-speed pas de deux that has one of them repeatedly suspended in the air by her partner who miraculously never loses his footing. A woman spins overhead, suspended by a harness attached to her hair. A rope-walker inverts the familiar tight-rope act: the loose, flexible cord seems incapable of supporting his weight, and yet he maintains his balance while performing somersaults forwards and backwards. A deranged maniac (judging by the security people he evades) dangles overhead from chains suspended only around the back of his neck. Two acrobats perform their routines while grasping a lamppost levitating high above the stage. A juggler tosses an incredible variety of objects, including sombreros that seem too flimsy to control accurately – but somehow he manages. In the most seemingly impossible display, a man spins, rides, and dances around a large hula hoop that remains continuously in motion throughout his time on stage; even when he walks away, it continues to roll as if propelled by some magical force.

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In between these miracles, the clowns provide comic relief including audience participation. Someone (presumably a plant) is blindfolded while knives are “thrown” at balloons on either side of his head (it’s a fake out). Two children are invited on stage to extinguish candles with water pistols. A trio of adults are cast in a mini-tragedy of betrayal and revenge that leaves everyone dead, including the clown directing the action.

The show wraps up with a candlelit procession of shrouded figures, who scurry back into the castle with their robes fluttering like batwings while the lead clown pauses for a last menacing glance at the audience before disappearing through door. It’s a genuinely moody moment that captures the vampire vibe worthy of the show’s title.

The Vampire Circus Review: Conclusion

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Even more than Paranormal Cirque, The Vampire Circus is a traditional circus hiding behind a Halloween mask: there is no mysterious Master of Ceremonies, nor do zombies disembowel an audience member. Fortunately, this matters little when the circus is so good: the incredible sights on stage suggest supernatural skills worthy of the undead, and there is a thrill or two, as when the action spills into the aisles while a deranged madman flees guards pursuing him with sparking electric cattle prods.

The Vampire Circus may initially disappoint Halloween fans hoping for a more full-blooded horror show, but in the end it overwhelms any reservations and triumphs as as a spectacular piece of entertainment.

Vampire Circus

Rating Scale

1 – Avoid
2 – Not all bad
3 – Recommended
4 – Highly Recommended
5 – Must See

Although we would have preferred vampirism and horror, the performances in The Vampire Circus overwhelmed our reservations, earning a must-see recommendation

The Vampire Circus continues at the Montalbán on select nights through October 31, with performances starting at 2pm, 5pm, and 8pm on weekends and at 7pm on weeknights. Tickets start at $44 for balcony seating. The Montalbán is located at 1615 Vine Street in Hollywood. Get more information here.

The Vampire Circus Review: Photo Gallery

Steve Biodrowski, Administrator

A graduate of USC film school, Steve Biodrowski has worked as a film critic, journalist, and editor at Movieline, Premiere, Le Cinephage, The Dark Side., Cinefantastique magazine, Fandom.com, and Cinescape Online. He is currently Managing Editor of Cinefantastique Online and owner-operator of Hollywood Gothique.