"She's there every evening, assisting, looking after performers, watching from the wings," artistic director Urs Pilz tells PEOPLE

By Peter Mikelbank
Updated August 06, 2015 12:25 PM
Credit: Gaetan Luci

It is perhaps the only circus in the world with clowns, acrobats its own wine sommelier.

Currently in a limited summer run until August 23, the eye-popping Circus Dinner Show is a Monaco-sized gem – and it’s run by a real princess.

Princess Stephanie has the last word about everything, from the acts to the dining,” an organizer tells PEOPLE. “She’s the mistress of the center ring.”

Grown out of the principality’s 40-year-old Monte Carlo Circus Festival, the summer circus has become its own much-anticipated tradition. The intimate, cabaret-style one-ring circus is in its fourth annual return, with tickets starting around $100 for this year’s edition starring famed Italian “King of Clowns” David Larible, who previously appeared in Barnum’s Kaleidoscape.

“The show starts when people enter,” artistic director Urs Pilz tells PEOPLE. “We have comic waiters who bring you to your table, and you’re served a four-course gourmet meal between acts – but really the show action doesn’t stop.”

The unique circus immersion is enhanced, Pilz says, “by this very real high-end gastronomic experience,” as well as a 14-piece live orchestra – all overseen by a very watchful royal eye.

Princess Stephanie, 50, who succeeded her late father as patron of the principality’s annual winter circus festival, “oversees everything,” says Pilz. “She’s involved with the artist selection, the show presentation, the meal, the table set-ups.”

Unlike typical circus fare of popcorn and cotton candy, the event features a serving staff of 30, an impressive wine list and a full kitchen brigade under the Fairmont Hotel’s chef Philippe Joann s. (Think veal with fresh herbs and creamy risotto and asparagus tips.)

“It’s 100 percent circus ambience,” says one regular devotee, “but difficult to explain because you feel the show all around you. It’s like a circus inside an elegant supper club.”

And the dessert is no joke: This year, everyone – large and small – gets a “A Pie In The Face:” a fresh lemon-chocolate tart with edible clown face topped by a giant red chocolate nose.

Princess Stephanie, the younger sister of Monaco’s reigning Prince Albert II, inherited her father’s passion for the circus and even saved two former circus elephants – Baby and Nepal – from being euthanized by the Ete D Or Park Zoo in Lyon after they tested positive for tuberculosis by moving them to the royal family s estate on the Cote d Azur.

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“She’s really quite easygoing,” says Pilz, “but she’s there every evening, assisting, looking after performers. Watching from the wings.”

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