Circus PAWS Review: Fabulous and Cruelty Free



Circus PAWS,  a spectacle of fabulous artistic movement, took place last weekend at the Avalon Theatre in Hollywood.  At the Olympics, one of the most beautiful and exciting events is the gymnastic dancing.  I always wished there were more of it.  Well, Circus PAWS has been in town, and it is loaded with artistic acrobatic and trapeze tricks with themes and movement. Not only is it exciting, it proves that we no longer need circuses with cruel animal practices in town!

Kat Kramer soothes the beast (Photo courtesy of John Barsky)

Choreographed and staged by Nathalie Yves Gaulthier and her team at Le Petit Cirque, this event was thrilling to both children and adults.  The themes focused on animals, with gorgeous big screen video backgrounds. The one that highlighted birds  and the performers felt they were flying across the stage.  The butterflies complete with beautiful costumes were stunning. 


Wanda and Gypsy, two elephants at PAWS, recount their life in the cirucs and then we see the real elephant reunion on video

The underlying theme of Circus PAWS is about animals and how innocent and free they are they are in the wild, and then how they’ve been treated in captivity and then again how that can change.  Effective devices as whips and screams are introduced all in artful dance and choreography form so that they are chilling and yet not heavy handed. All the magic is executed by very talented troupe of children aged 6 to 14.


Whip dance artfully shows cruelty of animal domination

A highlight of the Sunday night show was the insertion of Kat Kramer in water goddess costume singing to the “Bless the Beasts and Children” from her father’s (Stanley Kramer) children’s film in combination with the Barbara Streisand hit “Not While I’m Around.” It was sublime, Kat’s vocal interpretation along with the children dressed like animals interacting with Kat.


Beautiful butterfly acrobat

Thank you to Pat Derby, a long time professional actress and book author, turned co-director and founder of the PAWS (Performing Animal Welfare Society) along with her partner Ed Stewart, and its three wild animal sanctuaries in northern California.  At the PAWS sanctuaries, animals who have been captured from the wild and removed from their homes and families often forced into slavery most of their lives, now live in dignity with space and freedom and members of their own species.


Ed Stewart and Pat Derby proudly welcome guests in the lobby of the Avalon Theatre

This show is Pat Derby’s brainchild. “Since PAWS’ founding in 1984, we have rescued many performing animals from the perils of circus life.  Proceeds from the show go to support the rescued and retired animals at PAWS.  On a personal level, I have always been amazed at the many talents of human circus performers. So when I heard about the thrilling young performers from Le Petit Cirque, I knew we had to host our own Circus PAWS.”


Kaelyn Whaley stuns with her superior martial arts

Besides being artistic and beautiful and fun to watch, Circus PAWS is also very educational.  The emcee, Kevin Axtell who impresses with his juggling and fire play, at one point calls for a press conference and a video is shown of Ed Stewart, Bob Barker, Jorja Fox and Jan Creamer with Congressman Jim Moran at the congressional hearing when TEAPA (Traveling Exotic Animal Protection Act – HR 3359) was introduced in Congress to prevent the cruelties  which are inflicted on wild animals who travel with circuses around the country.  Since being introduced it has picked up several more co-sponsors in Congress. There were members of IDA (In Defense of Animals) and ADI (Animal Defenders International) in the lobby eliciting signatures on a petition to push this forward. They are calling on all compassionate people to contact their District reps to show support and encourage them to co-sponsor this bill.

Young girl in wheelchair joins the troupe

Celebrities Lily Tomlin and Bob Barker as well as dozens of PAWS supporters have underwritten kids’ tickets, making it possible for members of several local children’s organizations including Project One Song, LA Police Department’s Youth Programs, LA Sheriff’s Youth Foundation, The After-School All Stars, Boys and Girls Clubs from Compton and Watts, A place Called Home, and a number of charter schools to attend. Among the three showings of Circus PAWS over the weekend, over 900 disadvantaged children were entertained and educated about wild animals.


Kat Kramer sings to the beasts and the children

Boy band IM5 opened the how Sunday evening and tore up the stage with their voices, dancing and charisma.  The Silhouettes opened Act 2 wit their beautiful shadowed mime routine.   An important part of the show was Kaelyn Whaley, 8 time martial arts champion, dynamic and strong who dazzled us with her fast and accurate movements and swordplay as well as her strong voice.  She seemed to represent the domination of animals by people. At the end of the show after the introduction and hope of TEAPA was included, her movements became soft and she changed from her customary devilish red costume to white.


Flying like birds!

Piano genius Rio Mangini played the "Third Movement of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata”  to accompany the piece about wild birds. Drummer Julian Pavone, barely bigger than a drumstick himself knocked our socks off with his unbelievably energetic solo act.  Another highlight was when one of the performers, a wheelchaired young girl was included in the action and was helped into a harness and able to fly about the stage.


Boy band IM5 opens Sunday show

The VIP Reception on Sunday night brought out some luminary animal advocates, including David and Pam Casselman. David recently presented the case against the LA Zoo animal exhibit in which the judge ruled that the elephants were not being treated properly and mandated several major changes. Councilman Paul Koretz, an advocate of the newly proposed ban on traveling circuses in Los Angeles was there with his wife, and Lily Tomlin, who has herself spoken out and conducted fundraisers for captive elephants was there as well.  All in all a fabulous evening.  There are plans to digitize the show to spread to more children and possibly find ways to take it “on the road.”

The whole troupe bids adieu



Georja Umano is an actor and animal advocate.


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