At Paranomal Cirque, Horror Is Where the Fun Is

Courtesy of Paranormal Cirque
You can't miss the big black circus tent standing in a parking lot on NE 123rd Street in North Miami. Its aura of mystery could stop you in your tracks. Enter its darkness and find big-top entertainment at its most ominous: creepy creatures, villainous vampires, and deathly demons that will transport you to a wicked world of nightmare and fantasy.

A unique brew of theater, circus, and cabaret, Paranormal Cirque is unleashing fun and fear upon Miami through Monday, January 21. The production, created by Cirque Italia, an Italian entertainment company that also runs a water circus, debuted last summer in Palmetto, Florida, and has been engaging audiences across the nation via its fear factor.

What happens when circus performers decide to frighten a grown-up audience? Zombies perform aerials, freaks lurk in the shadows, and an artist defies gravity inside the Wheel of Death. The mix of wonderment evokes fright, laughter, and shock through a story line that is rooted in horror but shifts to comedy when the audience is invited to join the cast onstage.

Putting a terrifying spin on traditional wonderment are 15 performers, a cast of international talent from countries such as Belarus, Italy, Mexico, Romania, and Senegal. Gergana Georgieva, a former Bulgarian gymnast, plays a showgirl and the movie character Maleficent in the spectacle and, like the other artists, also works in other capacities around the tent, including the ticket, vendor, and face-painting booths.
Courtesy of Paranormal Cirque
"This is special because there are unusual elements, something you never see in other shows," says Georgieva, who's been a circus performer for 12 years. "It is thrilling, wicked, sexy. There are no animals and a lot more theatrics, and the audience's participation makes sure that each show is unique."

Sarah J. Fish, who quit her job at a medical marijuana dispensary in Sarasota last year to run away with the cirque, explains that "part of the job is psychology — noticing people's expressions and being perceptive with the crowd." A scare actor in the show, she plays Sally RottenAppleblossom, a psycho clown who walks around the grounds to warm up the crowd before the action inside the tent.

"Some people want to be scared, others chased," she says. "Some like to scream; others want to laugh. We respect boundaries, and it's all done in a smart way. We know when enough is enough."

Her partner, Josh VanDwelle, whose mad-doctor character chases people offstage, says that by delving into horror territory, the show taps into an audience that might otherwise not be motivated to go see a circus performance. "Our show is paranormal, adult-themed, and made not only for people who grew up loving the circus but also the sexy, the scary, and the unexpected. They enter a haunted house and can only go all the way in or get out."

Paranormal Cirque. Through January 21 at 1860 NE 123rd St., North Miami; Tickets cost $20 to $50 for adults and $10 to $50 for ages 13 to 17.