Friday, April 18, 2014
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Nik Wallenda in Atlantic City: Post-script

When you give away your best stunt for free to 100,000 people on the beach, you've got to work extra hard to get them to come see your stage show.

Nik Wallenda in Atlantic City: Post-script

Did we mention Nik Wallenda walked on a wire between the Atlantic Club and the Tropicana earlier this month? And that it was seen by about 100,000 people, give or take 50,000, according to crowd estimates. I thought it was super cool, in an unexpectedly subdued and meditative way, watching Wallenda walk high up in the air, on his own personal balance beam. I was relieved he didn't swing off it and have to grab it like a Fab Fiver on the Balance Beam, or meet a worse fate, like his great grandfather, Karl, who fell to his death on a similar walk. To me, it felt like everyone flying the same kite, that same kind of breathless wonder you feel to be connected to somthing so fantastical, so far away. Nik was cool the way he maintained eye contact with people during the walk. In any case, it was a big success for Atlantic City, say the marketers and image-keepers, but that still left Nik Wallenda, his wife Erendira, his mom, Delilah, his cousin Blake and a cast of a dozen or so old-fashioned circus performers _ a contortionist, an aerialist, a quick change of costume artist, a juggler, some swinging rope Guachos, his main man Michael Richter, who plays a clown in the act (with a particularly funny bit trying to get the audience to do a clap, snap, slap your thighs Louie Louie rendition) to go on with the show, which plays the Tropicana through Sept. 22. Nik relentllessly flogged the show, even pointing to the plane banner in the middle of his high wire walk. My daughter and I caught the show Sunday night, along with a bunch of other people who seemed to have gotten free tickets (there was a separate employee section and a comp section in the general admission seating area). Like the Morris Day and the Time show I saw the night before in the party like it's 1978 Superstar Theatre at Resorts, which has somehow escaped the glitzy redo of the rest of Resorts, it was an act that called on a lot of old fashioned entertainment values. Like Wallenda, Morris Day employs his own comic foil, who carries around a mirror. Between the two shows, I felt like I was back in an Atlantic City of an earlier era, maybe even like 1950, though Morris Day dates only from 80s Minneapolis. 

In any case, the Wallendas put on an old fashion vaudeville variety act, put Nik and his lovely wife up top high swaying poles out over the audience (see photo above, and I mean way above), and then recreated his great grandfather Karl's signature chair pyramid with bicycles act, the act that caught the attention of Ringling Brothers in the 1920s and brought the famous Wallendas to the United States. It's also an act that when expanded from four people (as it was done at the Tropicana) to seven people led to two Wallenda deaths in 1962. See, these stunts really are dangerous, though Wallenda makes them look like you could just do it yourself. Which, since I can even stand on a paddle board for nore than a second and a half, I know I could not. 

Anyway, I dug the show and so did all the little kids around me, though the contortionist guy who put his head through his legs backwards sort of freaked out the teenages. The daring bicycle acts are silly-dangerous but performed to very dark, adventure in the forest music like a movie score. Kind of hokey, but it underscores the serious heart to all the theatrics: this is at its core an homage to the memory of Karl and all the Wallendas that came before them, seven generations back. It was touching to see Nik, his mom, his wife and cousin Blake, continue to pay homage to the unique family legacy, quirky as it is. Who else but the Wallendas does the Wallenda thing? (See video below). It made me think, what would my family do on stage to honor grandpa Murray Rosenberg, our patriarch? Play a little tennis, maybe, and then all together on tables suspended in the air, slice that side of lox paper thin. Thinner, even. A legacy's a legacy. 

Tickets for the Nik Wallenda and the Wallenda Family Experience at the Tropicana are (definitely) available here. 

Two videos from last night's show are below: one of Nik and cousin Blake on bicycles on the wire, the other of the four Wallendas doing the bicycle - chair pyramid stunt. 

And the grand finale:

About this blog

Inquirer staff writer Amy S. Rosenberg has covered Philly police, city neighborhoods, Ed Rendell as mayor, the Jersey shore, Atlantic City, Miss America and the psychology of Eagles fans. She moved to Ventnor on July 3, 1995, which makes her a local, but not really.

Inquirer Staff Writer Jacqueline L. Urgo has spent every summer of her life at the Jersey Shore, and has lived there year-round for nearly 30 years, even fulfilling one of her bucket list dreams by once living in a house by the sea.

Since 1990, she has covered the waterfront for The Inquirer — from the Atlantic to the Delaware Bay shore — and some of the mainland in between. Along the way, she amassed an encyclopedic knowledge of this tear-it-down-and-build-it-back-up region, delving into the history and the hype of a place with a lot of unexpected stories to tell.

Reach The Downashore at arosenbegr@phillynews.com.

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