Circus World visitors can expect to hear doo-wop under the big top next summer.
The Baraboo museum this week announced a 1950s theme for its 2018 summer performance season, along with a few new and returning acts. Circus World Executive Director Scott O’Donnell said museum leaders decided to highlight ‘50s culture because guests appeared to connect with this summer’s ‘70s circus theme.
“For the first year in forever, everyone said, ‘What’s the theme?’ rather than ‘Who’s coming back next year?’ which led us to think we’re on to something here with themes,” he said.
O’Donnell added that the “dynamic decade” will provide ringmaster Dave SaLoutos and music director Larry Stout with plenty of classic tunes to rework during their “Shake, Rattle and Toot” routine. The musicians play classic songs during the act on a bizarre group of novelty instruments that once enlivened side shows and street parades.
“You have Elvis, early Beatles and all the doo-wop groups in between,” O’Donnell said. “We don’t want to affect Dave’s hips anymore — we’re going to get him off of his platform shoes, and get him into something cool like a Fonzie jacket.”
So far, the museum has announced one new performer for next summer and several returning acts. Animal trainer Hans Klose and his army of performing pooches and pigs are slated to make their debut appearance in Baraboo next summer. Klose had toured with the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus for six years when the historic brand ceased operations in May.
Circus World also has rebooked clowns Steve Copeland and Ryan Combs, unicyclist Wesley Williams and performing tigers and elephants. O’Donnell said more acts will be announced as contracts are finalized in the coming weeks.
“We’ll include some aerial acts, variety acts, animal acts and comedy,” he said. “There’s a lot of thought behind what acts are in the show, what acts complement the theme and what acts complement each other.”
“You want to hit a variety of notes,” SaLoutos added. “Variety is one of the keys to circus performances.”
Acts aside, O’Donnell and SaLoutos said a handful of ‘50s-themed events are being planned as well, including a classic car show, a drive-in movie and a “sock hop.” A sock hop, SaLoutos explained, was ‘50s slang for a dance party.
“A sock hop was usually on the gym floor and you had to take your shoes off,” he said. “Everybody would put their shoes in a big pile, and you danced in your stocking feet.”
O’Donnell said the museum announced its summer theme and performers earlier than previous years in an effort to alleviate concerns that Circus World would close in wake of the demise of the Ringling Bros. traveling circus. SaLoutos said the announcements will allow the museum to “create a buzz” for the upcoming season as well.
“What’s great is when you spend the entire fall and winter planning for something, and then you get to debut it,” O’Donnell said. “You get to put it forward, see the audience respond and watch it grow.”