Let's say (hypothetically) you're a cynical 25-year-old who has never been to the circus and you happen to have tickets to Circus Flora's 2012 incarnation, The Wizard, after a particularly grownup day filled with pesky grownup problems. Stipulate that expectations are low, as in: At least there'll be popcorn and funnel cake. In the concessions tent you encounter a massive serpent posing for photos and leagues of children cartwheeling or bopping about on stilts. An organ toots carnival music and the smell of cotton candy goes all Proustian on your formerly sad-sack self. By the time Flora founder Ivor David Balding introduces the troupe, you've swapped your anxiety for carefree (albeit bittersweet) rapture. Yep, there's a family of unicyclists, and the incomparable Jessica Hentoff's pint-size and electrifying St. Louis Arches, who tumble and build themselves into improbable formations with superhuman fluidity. “Enchantresses” twirl and pose in burlesque fashion high above, and the Flying Wallendas take to the tightrope with a four-man pyramid and sundry midair theatrics. Nino the Clown lives up to his reputation; he's goofy, lovable and immensely talented, whether he's demonstrating his mediocre magician skills, attempting to juggle with one pin, effortlessly stumbling on a trapeze or plopping down on an audience member's lap. Truly, though, it's pointless to describe Circus Flora's annual sojourn in St. Louis. Balding and Co.'s stock-in-trade is joy, pure and simple — the kind of magic that causes even the most jaded of circus-averse grownups to brim with childlike delight. Through June 24 at the Circus Flora Big Top, Samuel Shepard Drive and North Grand Boulevard. Tickets are $10 to $44. Call 314-289-4040 or visit www.circusflora.org.
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