Review: Dreaming of Pirates at Circus Vargas

The circus meets pirates in an attempt to really, truly entertain the audience.

The circus meets pirates in an attempt to really, truly entertain the audience.

Photo courtesy of Circus Vargas

Showtimes: Thu 7pm, Fri 4:30pm & 7:30pm, Sat 11:30am, 4pm & 7:30pm, Sun noon, 3pm & 6:30pm. Through 10/14; $15-$57, Circus Vargas at Westfield Galleria in Roseville, 1151 Galleria Boulevard, and Folsom Lakeside Church in Folsom, 745 Oak Ave Parkway; (877) 468-3861,
Rated 4.0

With the Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey Circus folding up its tent for good last year, Circus Vargas is now one of the largest remaining big top circuses touring the states. This year’s show, Dreaming of Pirates, boasts a dazzling array of elaborate stunts, choreography and—my favorite—sparkly costumes, all designed to entice a public that increasingly opts for the accessibility of screen-based entertainment. (This is not a condemnation. If I had my way, I would stay home and watch Big Little Lies and drink boxed rosé every night.) Circus Vargas seems to recognize this declining interest in live entertainment and responds with a show meant to connect with audiences of all ages.

The tone is set within the first minute, when a clown dressed in a blindingly white, bedazzled suit enters the ring playing a soulful rendition of “Over the Rainbow” on alto sax. From there, we loosely follow the story of a much younger clown who, dissatisfied with his current occupation, dreams of becoming—well, a pirate. Relatable.

Lasting nearly two hours and 30 minutes, Dreaming of Pirates has its slower points, but the more slapstick portions are spread throughout the show strategically enough that we don’t dwell on them. Memorable acts include a transfixing, trampoline-based sword duel, the flying trapeze and a big finale, which has nothing to do with pirates but does involve motorcycles. It makes no sense, but it doesn’t matter; because motorcycles.

While the story meanders, let’s be honest: The main draw is the stunts and sparkly costumes. The performers do an excellent job of playing with audience expectations and upping the ante with each new awe-inducing act, enough to keep most folks enraptured by the glitz and glamour that is the circus.