Money Woes Behind It, Big Apple Circus Back This Fall - Manhattan Express | Manhattan Express

Money Woes Behind It, Big Apple Circus Back This Fall

Neil Kahanovitz has trained and worked as both a surgeon and a trampoline and trapeze artist, and now he’s part of the team reviving the iconic Big Apple Circus. | Photo by Jackson Chen

BY JACKSON CHENThe Big Apple Circus and its performers will fly high once again, with ticket sales now underway for their 40th anniversary revival show starting on October 27.

After tumbling through a short bout of bankruptcy late last year, the circus was bought in February by the private equity firm Compass Partners and will be run by its affiliate Big Top Works. Its $1.3 million investment represents the firm’s first venture into the entertainment world, but Neil Kahanovitz, a Big Top Works partner, emphasized they are not navigating in the dark, with some serious circus savvy among their teams members.

Kahanovitz recalled that as a kid, he had the unusual dream of growing up to be both an orthopedic surgeon and a circus performer. Splitting his time between medical school and the circus, the future surgeon earned his stripes on the trampoline and trapeze at the traveling Clyde Beatty Circus.

Now, at 68 and perhaps less inclined to hone his aerial skills, Kahanovitz welcomes the chance to revive a treasured local tradition.

“It’s more of a bringing back of this iconic New York institution that needs to be restored to its proper place,” he said. “How many generations have walked by Lincoln Center at Christmas time and seen the tent. Last year was the first year in 40 years they hadn’t.”

The Big Apple Circus returns with a bang, its debut show featuring back-to-back death-defying stunts. The first act’s grand finale features trapeze artist Ammed Tuniziani, better known as the Flying Tuniziani, showing off his quadruple somersault. Recalling his days on the trapeze, Kahanovitz said the quadruple was once unheard of.

“Triple was like the gold standard of the best trapeze acts in the world, but it’s really amazing to see a quad,” he said, acknowledging that he himself was never close to nailing a triple.

The second act features Nik Wallenda, who leads his family troupe, the Flying Wallendas, in a seven-person pyramid high wire act, the same one that, in 1962, left two Wallendas dead and another paralyzed in a tragic mishap at Detroit’s State Fair Coliseum. In true show business fashion, the Wallendas remain in the game, ready to headline the Big Apple Circus return to Lincoln Center.

“For me, every step on the wire is a tribute to my great grandfather, who is the inspiration behind everything that I do,” Wallenda said in a recent written statement. “I’m so excited to return to my true passion, which is performing under the Big Top, where I can connect with the audience in a real way especially in the intimate atmosphere of Big Apple Circus.”

Apart from jaw-dropping acrobatics, Big Apple Circus’ comeback also features fan favorites like Grandma the Clown, who has stepped out of retirement for the revival. She’ll be paired with the new ringmaster, Ty McFarlan, who, Kahanovitz said, “stood above everyone else” in experience as well as in improv tryouts with Grandma.

Big Apple Circus, Kahanovitz explained, is distinguished not only by its stellar acts; it also strives to serve the community, with affordable family pricing as well as two shows each for autistic children and for those with hearing and visual impairments, called “Circus of the Senses.”

Practice tents go up in New Jersey in mid-August, and rehearsals will begin in early September and run until the big Lincoln Center opening day on October 27. The Manhattan run goes through January 7.

“I’m anxious and excited,” Kahanovitz said. But at the same time, you realize the magnitude of bringing this back to New York. I’ve had instances where grandparents have come to me, and they went as kids and they brought their kids and they’re so happy that now their grandchildren can come.”

Tickets are now on sale at

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