Mixing Mozart and acrobatics in Circa's delightful family show
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Mixing Mozart and acrobatics in Circa's delightful family show

Wolfgang’s Magical Musical Circus
Circa, Arts Centre Melbourne
Until January 12

★★★★

Circa is one of the great Australian success stories in the arts. In just over a decade, artistic director Yaron Lifschitz has transformed the small Brisbane-based indie company into a hugely influential creative powerhouse, in demand at festivals the world over.

Until now, adult audiences have largely been the focus of the company’s attention, as it expanded the language of circus, in all its uncanniness and wonder, into realms of theatricality, dance and music – creating a style of performance that took the risk and surprise of elite acrobatics and used it to explore deeper, more nuanced emotive terrain than anyone had dared to attempt before.

Wolfgang’s Magical Musical Circus is a rare piece for children, and it’s delightful.

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Classical music's most famous wunderkind is the ideal figure to introduce children to its splendour, and the show presents Mozart with a clownish twist that might remind adults of the wildly eccentric libertine we get in Peter Shaffer’s Amadeus (though naturally the silliness isn’t sexualised in the same way).

Paul O'Keeffe in Wolfgang's Magical Musical Circus.

Paul O'Keeffe in Wolfgang's Magical Musical Circus.Credit:Dylan Evans

It begins with a girl (Kathryn O’Keeffe) alone on her birthday. When she plays a Mozart record to pass the time, the prodigy (Paul O’Keeffe) returns to life and joins the party.

What follows is a nimble, brilliantly crafted series of set-pieces, blending acrobatics, tumbling, dance and some superb slapstick, as Mozart succumbs to every kind of pratfall and the girl helps him through.

You can expect to see the composer changing costume on a bicycle or doing battle with an errant spotlight (and a mischievous baton) to conduct a concert.

Astonishing feats of strength and balance continually captivate: Katherine O’Keeffe performs ballet en pointe with a grown man standing on her shoulders, while Paul O’Keeffe constructs a veritable Jenga tower of chairs on top of champagne bottles before launching into handstands mid-air.

From left: Gareth Chin, Paul O'Keeffe and Kathryn O'Keeffe in Wolfgang's Magical Musical Circus.

From left: Gareth Chin, Paul O'Keeffe and Kathryn O'Keeffe in Wolfgang's Magical Musical Circus.Credit:Dylan Evans

The show is gilded with comedy that had all ages laughing with raucous enthusiasm, and the music keeps the carousel turning at a frenetic pace, with Mozart favourites – from the Figaro overture to arias from The Magic Flute – accompanying the action, most played live on piano accordion (Gareth Chin).

A few moments could use tightening, or maybe more narrative grounding, but the brilliance of Circa translates well to a young audience. World-class acrobatics bring to this musical fantasia the high wow factor we’ve come to expect, with the direction tailoring the spectacle into elegantly orchestrated hilarity, performed with an infectious sense of joy.

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