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Paranormal Cirque puts the ‘quirk’ into circus
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Paranormal Cirque puts the ‘quirk’ into circus

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How’s your summer been? Peaceful, relaxing, a time to enjoy outdoor activities?

If so, Paranormal Cirque would like to change all of that for a few hours.

The live show, performed under a towering black-and-red tent in the Premium Outlets parking lot, combines theater, circus and cabaret — in a way you’ve likely never seen before.

Think of it as Cirque du Soleil’s evil twin.

It’s a grab bag of circus acts — including acrobats on horizontal bars, aerial acts and a guy in a wheel that resembles a giant Hula Hoop. And there’s a creepy clown, too ... but, really, aren’t all clowns creepy?

Before getting to the circus part of the show, however, you pass through the “pre-show” area, filled with concession stands, face painters, a fog-filled graveyard and an usher wielding a chainsaw to hurry you along.

I went to the show’s opening night Thursday, hoping not to be too terrified. (For context, consider that I can’t watch an episode of “The X Files” unless someone tells me it’s not a scary one, and horror movies are definitely off-limits.)

Sarah Kessler, a Paranormal Cirque media representative, assured me the show itself isn’t scary.

And she was right. After passing through some “scare actors,” I was able to take my seat unharmed.

The tent is impressive, especially considering everything has to be taken apart and moved to the next town every week.

“It’s just the old Melody Top Theater where I saw Robert Goulet and Anna Maria Alberghetti performing ‘Camelot,’” I told my husband when we sat down.

Except that Milwaukee circus tent theater didn’t feature strobe lights, sirens, black lights and the persistent squeal of a chainsaw. Also, that show was in 1981, before summer stock theater made way for more shock-style entertainment.

You don’t want to be late because the show — playing to an almost sold-out crowd Thursday night — starts off with its best act: six men performing on horizontal bars, answering the question “What do world-class gymnasts do in non-Olympic years?” Because of this show’s theme, the gymnasts perform these incredible moves in zombie makeup.

The circus acts we saw, including an aerial silks performer and the “Cyr Wheel” performer, rightfully earn roars from the crowd. And this show revives the fine art of plate spinning, something I had not seen since attending “Bozo’s Circus” in Chicago as a second-grader.

A lot of the audience members also seemed to love the comedy bits, too, though this part of the show seemed, like a lot of improv, to go on too long. You know the drill: A performer interacts with audience members, bringing some of them on stage to become part of the act.

If you’re a fan of the Bristol Renaissance Faire, you’ve seen this stuff before, and it’s done quite well. To me, however, it felt like filler before the next amazing performer. Or, as the woman behind me said, “This is too much audience interaction.”

The crowd was filled with some Paranormal Cirque superfans, who came in full makeup and show T-shirts. Others bought masks and joined in on the fun. And, just like a “real” circus, hawkers move through the crowd selling popcorn, cotton candy, drinks and funnel cakes.

When the circus comes to town, even if it’s populated by zombies, there’s always funnel cakes.

Note: The show is Rated R and is not suitable to anyone sensitive to rude language, loud sirens and smoke or the smell of gasoline (from the chainsaws). If you love bawdy humor, however, and circus acts with a Halloween theme, this is the show for you. Enjoy!

PHOTOS: Lincoln Park Live: Betsy Ade & the Well-Known Strangers

Betsy Ade & the Well-Known Strangers — a band made up of Ade on vocals, Cameron Fair on cello and piano, Brittany Lumley playing multiple instruments and backing vocals, Roger Gower Jr. on drums, John Kulas on the bass and Joe Adamek on lead guitar — played a two-hour set at the latest installment of Lincoln Park Live in Lincoln Park, 6900 18th Ave., on Tuesday, July 17.

Here are a roundup of photos of the band performing at the event. 

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Betsy Ade and the Well-Known Strangers, seen here performing in Lincoln Park during the summer, are playing in Pennoyer Park Saturday as part …

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