Thursday, October 21, 2021

Show time: Zoppe Italian Family Circus hits the mark in the Big Top

Acrobats and trapeze artists exhibit their prowess and daring in a jaw-dropping act.
Zoppe Italian Family Circus is on tour in California, then on to Arizona and beyond.


Enjoying the circus pre-show, from left: Bruce Keller
 ("Uncle KK,") James Ganner, Christene Meyers
("Auntie Cookie") and Penelope Ganner. 


THE ZOPPE FAMILY'S touring circus is a delightful throw-back to the circuses of childhood. The elements of magic and surprise are time honored themes as a global assemblage of performers entertains and delights.  

One could call it a true "dog and pony show" for horses and pups are indeed 
part of the act, along with mimes, acrobats, trapeze artists, sword balancers and a charming clown -- plus more -- much more.
The remarkably old fashioned yet polished and contemporary Zoppe Circus dates back 179 years to a collaboration of French, Hungarian and Italian performers who launched the production.  Legend says a young couple -- both performers -- fell in love and launched the now famous touring troupe.
The talented ringmaster opens the show, with his faithful
sidekick, clown Nino, behind him and the full house.

The company takes in the applause of a standing
ovation, with baby Ilario Fabrizio Luigino Zoppe,
the ensemble's newest member, sixth generation.

THE PRODUCTION honors  centuries old circus traditions: thrills, chills, charm, humor, surprise and -- always -- magic.
We treated our great-niece and nephew, Penelope and James Ganner, to the Big Top in Redwood City during opening weekend of the Zoppe run.
Jugglers, musicians, jesters, horses and multiple generations of the cheerful troupe greeted us as we strolled toward the tent for the 6 p.m. Sunday show, the last of three performances that day. (The company takes only Monday and Tuesday off, and bunks behind the circus in a compound of trailers.)

THE CIRCUS theme changes yearly and the 2021 theme is "La Vita Nuova, the New Life." Ringmaster and mime Mace Perlman explained  that coming back from the pandemic has special meaning to the performers. "As we create a new life ahead, we are reminded to take things lightly,  to appreciate as much as we can." How true, we thought, as we sat with our beloved little ones, surrounded by other families and friends.

Contortion acts are part of the
show, with body-bending moves.


The Zoppé family is constantly importing new people -- and new life. Young performers learn the ropes early. Even the company's newest member was on stage. Ilario Fabrizio Luigino Zoppé --  born in April in Guanajuato, Mexico -- and has been part of the acts since his four-month birthday. Actor and ringmaster Mace Perlman, a classically trained mime, is a circus veteran, who studied and performed under Marcel Marceau in Paris, and later under Giorgio Strehler at his Piccolo Teatro in Milan.
Ringmaster Mace Perlman, a classically- trained
mime, studied with famed mime Marcel
 Marceau in Paris. He is also a fine actor. 

Giovanni Zoppé, who plays Nino the
Clown, is a 6th generation performer,
son of Alberto Zoppe, who performed
into his 80s and is much revered.


FORMER OLYMPIC  Diving Team  members from the Russian State Circus, are among the many pros in the company. Belarusian brothers Mikhail and Alexei Drozdov joined Russian born Illya Alikov  for a thrilling Russian bar act. It had me gripping my nephew's arm in fear of a fall. 

THEN MORE thrills with fifth-generation circus artist, Mexican born German Rodogell in a daring sword balancing act. More gripping of my nephew's arm as Wisconsin-born Disa Carneol took fearlessly to a swinging trapeze.  The talented aerialist has performed worldwide -- as have most of the seasoned troupe -- thrilling audiences from Shanghai to San Francisco and Sao Paulo.

Poodles are part of the fun,
and some are rescue dogs. 
Clown Nino was a huge audience hit, working the entire house with juggling, physical humor and clever commentary to the ringmaster's feigned impatience. Actor Giovanni Zoppe is a non-stop delight with an expressive face made for clowning!

Smiling and in complete control, a Zoppe rider thrills the
crowd with her expert talents and beautiful maneuvering

kids are animal lovers, and Penelope is a talented rider, so the dog and horse acts thrilled us all. Doggies jumped through hoops, danced and formed an endearing conga line then an expert rider managed two spirited horses with grace and control. She even rode atop a pair of horses -- one leg on each -- and rode backwards and upside down without incident.

This is a dog and pony show of exemplary quality and good, old-fashioned entertainment value. Tickets are reasonably priced and many kinds of refreshments are available, plus an opportunity to be photographed with the horses. 

WHAT WE LOVED most about the circus was seeing it with family, remembering the circus shows we older folks enjoyed as kids. Hats off and paws and hoofs up, all around!

IF YOU GO:  Zoppe is in Redwood City through Nov. 21.  Tickets may be purchased at the box office or on
If you miss the Bay Area performance run, the Zoppe company is headed for Arizona with stops in Chandler, Dec. 9-19, and Tempe, Dec. 23-Jan. 3 of 2022. Check out

"The Last Ship" at the Ahmanson Theater in Los Angeles was
the last show Cookie and Keller saw before "pandemic 
purgatory." After months without theater, it's back now
with a full season at many Los Angeles and San Diego venues
UP NEXT: After nearly 20 months without our usual full docket of live theater offerings, we are thrilled to have a series of  well received productions on line. It's wonderful to be part of the audience once again.  Southern California is "back on the boards" with a full slate of offerings now through the winter months and into next summer. It's a wondrous, thrilling time for theater junkies including the whereiscookie staff. We take a look at what's on stage from San Diego to Palm Springs, Carlsbad, Los Angeles and more, remembering to explore, learn and live.  And do catch us each week for a fresh spin on theater and the arts, travel, family, nature, health and more:



  1. Arizona Animal LoversOctober 22, 2021 at 10:13 AM

    Fun story. We await Zoppe here in Chandler.

  2. Delightful piece. We go to Zoppe every year... always something new!