By Cynthia Tavlin

Nifty Fifties!

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Big Apple Circus, New York's homegrown one-ring circus, takes a step back in time in its newest production, Big Top Doo Wop - a salute to the American '50s that serves up impressive circus acts against a backdrop of the Lone Ranger, Ed Sullivan and other pop icons of the era.

Sticklers for authenticity take note: The decade you're going to see is the carefree Richie Cunningham one, complete with drive-ins, poodle skirts and milkmen delivering bottled milk to your door. The Cold War, polio and black lists are airbrushed out of the production, and for audience members seeking refuge in the cozy atmosphere of Lincoln Center's Damrosch Park, that's a good thing.

Like all Big Apple Circus productions, Big Top Doo Wop is well-paced and entertaining. The majority of toddlers and pre-schoolers in the audience made it through both acts with flying colors, and even older children accustomed to more sophisticated fare will find the endearing and energetic performances irresistible.

Longtime Big Apple Circus fans will also be happy to see Grandma, a.k.a. Barry Lubin, who returns to the production after a three-year hiatus spent surfing in the Bahamas, according to company literature. Wearing a double strand of pearls, sensible shoes and handbag clutched at the wrist, Grandma's best moments include a stint on an exercise machine and a terrific popcorn bit. Rope tricks, the Olate Family's Dogs, and Pep Team Acrobatics are also big crowd pleasers; but it is Justin Case, with his comic antics and impressive trick bicycling act, who slyly steals the show.

Info:

When/Where: Part of an 11-month, 10-city tour, Big Top Doo Wop will be at Lincoln Center's Damrosch Park, 63rd and Broadway, until January 6, 2002. Tickets: $12-$30 for 11am weekday matinees; $18-$52 for weekday evenings and 2pm matinees; $28-$65 for Friday evening, Saturday, Sunday and holiday shows. The Circus Box Office is open Sunday and Monday, 10am-6pm and Tuesday-Sunday, 10am-8pm. Tickets are also available through Centercharge (212) 721-6500 or Ticketmaster (212) 307-4100.

NOTE: Families can also join in the ring and share the spotlight for a family-friendly New Year's Eve countdown, during a special 9:30pm performance December 31. Special pricing applies to this performance. For further information, call (800) 922-3772.

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