Sunday, April 15, 2012

Show & Tell: The Flying Karamazov Brothers

Mix a little vaudeville with some Gershwin, Marx Brothers antics, circus acts, and stand-up routine, and what do you get? 

The Flying Karamazov Brothers. Dmitri, Alexei, Pavel and Zissima. In real life, they're known as Paul Magid, Mark Ettinger, Rod Kimball and Stephen Bent. 

Having never seen - or heard of - The Flying Karamazov Brothers (nope, I didn't even see their cameo on "Seinfeld"), I had no idea what to expect from their performance at the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center. I knew they juggled, and that was about it. But, when they started their show with introductions, and then told the audience to stand up and, "Everybody turn around and shake the hand of the person behind you," I knew it was going to be right up my alley. (Note: If everybody turns around to shake the hand of the person behind them, nobody can actually shake hands. It still makes me chuckle.) 

After that I settled in and spent the next hour and a half laughing and turning to my wife to say, "How do they do that?" 

The show is constructed of numerous "scenes" loosely held together by the presenting of the "9 Objects of Terror" that would be juggled as the finale. (Included, among other completely unrelated items, were a meat cleaver, a flaming torch, and a fish.) Emphasized throughout the show was also the connection juggling has with music. Everything from classical piano pieces and ukulele serenades to Lady Ga Ga on the tuba were used during the show. There were also many "scenes" that reminded me of something you would have seen at Stomp!, where the Brothers made percussion "music" using bouncy balls or the bowling pins they were juggling. Many times I found myself tapping my feet along. 

Despite the fact that the show centered around juggling (not what one would necessarily consider a popular or "it" art form), The Flying Karamazov Brothers kept things relevant, up to date, and even local. Throughout the show audience members were encouraged to participate. And at one point, the audience got to bring up items to the stage for Dmitri to juggle. As voted/decided on by applause, the objects ended up being: a pound of butter, a wet bar of soap, and a violin. Dmitri was able to juggle them for 10 seconds. Pretty impressive. 

Along the way, there were drops and small gaffs, but the Brothers worked them into the show. In fact, there were times where it seemed they were intentionally trying to mess with each other with a slightly faster or exceptionally high toss. They even went so far as to explain how, when juggling as a group, they deal with a dropped bowling pin.

Ultimately, the show was a blast. The Flying Karamazov Brothers' goofy, "groan before you start laughing" humor paired nicely with their amazing juggling talent to make a fun, and visually stunning, show. The next time they come back to the Fox Cities P.A.C., I will definitely go see them. And I'll be sure to bring my kids with too.

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