Photo by Krystal Ramirez

Behind the Scenes of Circus 1903

While one might understandably assume that Circus 1903—The Golden Age of Circus is a 114-year-old big-top spectacular, the newest stage production at Paris Las Vegas is actually less than a year old.

The production, which landed at the Strip hotel July 25 after debuting in Australia’s Sydney Opera House last November, is a nostalgic, old-fashioned, family-friendly show with a talented global cast of jugglers, a cyclist, a contortionist, aerial artists, puppet elephants Queenie and Peanut, a family high-wire act and more.

We chatted with five of the acts featured in Circus 1903, all of whom have been with the production since its launch last fall.

Photo by Krystal Ramirez

Ringmaster Willy Whipsnade

(David Williamson of Ohio)

In the requisite top hat and tailcoat, ringmaster Williamson commands the big-top spectacle. He says that Circus 1903 was a year in the making, from the costumes and sets to the designs and scripts, and that the finishing touches were completed about two weeks before its world premiere. “We put the show together brand new, but we’ve been touring nonstop—we’re at 150 performances now,” Williamson says.

The performer, who has 40 years of stage experience, is not from a circus background but has a new appreciation for circus artists and their talents. “This is not about pomp and circumstance; it’s about raw showmanship,” he says. “Circus folk are cut from a different cloth.”

Working with kids might be one of the toughest challenges in entertainment. Williamson does just that during each performance of Circus 1903, as children are picked from the audience to interact with performers onstage. How did he become such a pro? “I have been doing magic since I was a kid and [I] worked on the Disney Cruise Line,” he says. “I love working with kids. … I’m not here to condescend [to] them, but rather to celebrate the magic of childhood.”

Photos by Krystal Ramirez

Peanut the Elephant

(Luke Chadwick-Jones of the United Kingdom)

After training in the craft of puppetry during drama school seven years ago, Puppeteer Chadwick-Jones auditioned for Circus 1903 while living in London. He was part of the Australian and North American tours before landing at Paris Las Vegas, and believes that the show uses his repertoire of puppetry perfectly with Peanut the Elephant.

“The puppetry is adorable and cute, but it’s very strenuous. It’s not an easy job,” he says, describing his role as a human replacement for a live elephant (Circus 1903 uses puppetry created by the same team behind the National Theatre’s War Horse production). “While it’s enjoyable, it is very sore on the back.”

“I am so stoked to be here. It’s Las Vegas. Where else would you want to be to perform a show?” Chadwick-Jones says. “[Ringmaster] David [Williamson] is charming and the glue that holds the show together. The talent is magnificent as well.”

Chadwick-Jones has jumped off The Stratosphere and ridden the roller coasters here, so what’s at the top of his to-do list in Las Vegas? “I want to get my skydiving license!”

Photo by Krystal Ramirez

Fratelli Rossi

(Ricardo and Alejandro Rossi of Barcelona, Spain)

As the base of the sixth-generation juggling act Fratelli Rossi, Ricardo Rossi is on the floor and juggles his brother, Alejandro, with his feet. “The best part of my job is to … show people what I do. The show is amazing, [with] high-quality acts from Russia, Mexico, France and more,” he says.

But what about working with his brother? “It can be difficult because we also live together. But doing this act, it’s easy as long as we have good communication and a good relationship outside work. Without him, this act would be very difficult,” he says. “We are keeping the family tradition alive.”

And about performing in Las Vegas? “For an artist, it’s the top goal and the dream.” When he has time off, his to-do list includes attending resident shows featuring Elton John, Cher and Celine Dion, as well as going to the Grand Canyon and Red Rock Canyon.

Alejandro also enjoys his work, and echoes his brothers thoughts on performing with a sibling. “In the beginning, it was difficult, but you get used to it. You have a connection working every day together—you have a life together.”

Photo by Krystal Ramirez

The Cycling Cyclone

(Florian Blümmel of Speyer, Germany)

“It’s not a job. It’s a passion, and it’s my life,” Blümmel says of his act as the Cycling Cyclone, in which he circles the stage while performing feats atop a bicycle. Outside of practicing, Blümmel spends time in the gym for strength, stretching and coordination.

He started cycling at age 6—his parents enrolled him in a bicycle club—and he has been at it for more than two decades now. “I don’t really get injured because it’s always the same,” he says.

Photos by Krystal Ramirez

The Elastic Dislocationist

(Senayet Assefa Amara of Mekelle, Ethiopia)

“I love being able to do what I love for a crowd. There’s nothing like sharing my talent in front of an audience,” says elastic dislocationist Amara. In an orange and gold costume dripping with fringe, she bends her body into hard-to-believe shapes—but only after stretching for at least an hour.

Amara says of Circus 1903 and Paris Las Vegas, “I am really enjoying it a lot. It’s very different because we are staying in the hotel.” And at the top of her Las Vegas to-do list? “I want to go to Red Rock because I hear it is beautiful. Everything here is more natural and different from my home country, so I’d like to see it.” 

Circus 1903

Tue.–Fri., 7 p.m.; Sat.–Sun., 3 & 7 p.m.; tickets start at $53, Paris Las Vegas,