The Midnight Circus 

The Midnight Circus has always framed its variety acts with a narrative, however rudimentary. But The Flower Thieves, its most recent effort, features an actual book by G. Riley Mills and Ralph Covert and Covert's original score, which he performs onstage. Far from upstaging the action, these elements enhance the tale of a melancholy monarch whose enemies are foiled and spirits restored by a band of wayfarers, fortuitously comprised of acrobats, aerialists, rope walkers, web dancers, jugglers, and mimes. Under the direction of Mitchell J. Fain (who also stars as young King Ludar), the 14-member ensemble maintains a brisk but never rushed pace--no small feat when the mere act of setting a table evolves into a showpiece for airborne objects. More gentle moments include a lovers' dance on twin ropes that lends fresh romance to the familiar balcony scene. By the time good triumphed in a burst of flowers and fireworks, the warmth and magic of these supremely talented players had won over even the most fidgety of juvenile spectators. Metropolis Performing Arts Centre, 111 Campbell, Arlington Heights, 847-577-2121. Through December 2: Thursdays-Fridays, 7:30 PM; Saturdays, 3 and 7:30 PM; Sundays, 3 PM. $22.50.

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