Bello Nock is an exceptional performer, which is good news and bad news for the Big Apple Circus.
When the “comic daredevil” with the foot-high flat-top hairdo takes to the circus’ single ring in “Bello Is Back!” — the 32nd season production of the Big Apple Circus, now at the Palisades Center mall in West Nyack — the show zips along.
Here, he’s bungee-jumping from the top of the big top, scaring the daylights out of onlookers until he springs harmlessly back up.
Next, he’s goofing on the amazing Long Brothers routine: contortionists who seem to be part man, part slinky, wedging themselves through metal tubes and rings.
Then he mounts the Wheel of Wonder, a contraption he built, that spins faster and faster as Bello and David Martins leap, flip and even skip rope on it.
Next, it’s back to clowning, in an extended audience-participation number that drew guffaws from the pint-sized members of the audience.
But Bello’s success — he’s really exceptional and well worth the price of admission — makes the Big Apple’s less comic and less daredevil acts pale by comparison.
The Curatola Brothers do a balancing act where one brother balances the other on his hands and then flips him over. There’s a bit of tumbling and the strength required to achieve the balancing and flipping is considerable, but it’s no Wheel of Wonder.
Other acts lose their luster when compared to past productions of Big Apple. This year’s horse act — with Christine Zerbini and Sultan Kumisbayev and one and then two horses circling the ring — seems much tamer than in years past when one can recall four horses pounding around the tiny ring, performing intricate patterns and, well, choreography.
Likewise, the act called “Dancing Dogs” — in which a handful of dogs circle the ring or jump over dancing performers Regina Dobrovitskaya and Andrey Mantchev — seems much tamer than past incarnations of the charming little one-ring circus. It puts the spotlight on the dancers and adds the dogs as almost an afterthought.
Still, the spectacular acts certainly hold their own with Bello.
Chinese identical twin contortionists Long Jun and Long Bin astound as they wriggle themselves into impossibly tight places and wriggle themselves out again.
And the Spanish juggler Francisco Tebar Honrubia (Picaso Jr.) performs a don’t-try-this-at-home act involving juggling ping pong balls with his mouth. He also juggles plastic plates while running through the audience at breakneck speed.
And Barry Lubin continues to delight as Grandma, making the most of sightgags and props, mining the crowd for laughs and finding a nugget here and there.
If you’ve never seen the Big Apple Circus, by all means take the kids to see Bello, who’s among the best in the business. If you have seen it, there’s still plenty to like about this non-profit circus that has been defying gravity and the odds for 32 years.
“Bello is Back!” is in West Nyack through Oct. 12. For tickets, go to www.bigapplecircus.org.