BRANDON — Manuel Rebecchi pondered ideas for a circus as he sipped on a water bottle.
He wanted to do something unique. He didn't want animals and he wanted more than just funny clowns, amazing acrobatic performers and fancy jugglers.
Ultimately, the water swirling inside that bottle triggered an idea: his circus would feature performers on a stage surrounded by fountains and man-made rain.
"If I do something with water, it can be very unique," Rebecchi said.
Now Cirque Italia brings its show to Westfield Brandon mall April 25 through May 4.
Based in Sarasota, Cirque Italia visited three cities in its first year in 2012. The show traveled to 22 spots last year and estimates that it will take its Big Top to even more locations this year.
Rebecchi, who owns Cirque Italia, thinks the show's success is due to the amazing acts and the unique 35,000-gallon water stage. It takes about eight hours to fill the tank from a fire hydrant.
"This is the first circus in America with a traveling water stage," he said. "The water is a decoration. A part of the choreography."
Some performers don't get wet. Others do. For them, there is an added danger when they take the stage.
"You can lose balance," he said. "You can lose grip. You can fall."
The acts under the Big Top will include clowns, jugglers and acrobats. Some of the performers own Guinness World Records marks and others have worked with the famed Cirque du Soleil.
"There are very, very talented people here," he said.
Rebecchi knows something about the circus. He comes from a long line of circus entertainers and is a former performer. His aunt, Moira Orfei, is considered a circus icon in Italy.
Rebecchi, 32, who grew up in Italy, relocated to America in 2003. He spent his first few years working as a businessman, buying cars and shipping them to Italy. In the last few years, he ventured into the real estate business. He now splits his time between real estate and the circus.
He decided to start a circus because he did not think most American circuses had as much art and energy as European circuses. He also thinks too many circuses depend on animals.
"I think it's not right," he said.
Chante' DeMoustes, the show's producer and chief operating officer, said it is a high-class event. The tent has air conditioning and first-rate seating and equipment.
"This is more elite than a traditional circus," she said. "It almost feels like a theater."
Rebecchi said he hopes his circus continues to grow. But, he wants his ticket prices to stay reasonable so every mom and dad can bring their kids to the show. Tickets to the Brandon shows range between $10 and $50.
"I opened the circus," he said, "to deliver a product to the people they can afford."
For more information, go to cirqueitalia.com.
Monica Bennett can be reached at [email protected]