RINGLING BROTHERS AND BARNUM & BAILEY CIRCUS
By Gary Murray
“The circus is in town! The circus is in town!” has been the screaming call by children of all ages for decades. The idea of a traveling showcase of sights and sounds seldom seen is a link to our more rural past.
Sadly, our interconnected world, the idea of a circus may seem a bit dated. But, thanks to the fine people at Ringling Brother and Barnum & Bailey, the show is still alive and well. It performs at the American Airlines Center until August 12th and the Tarrant County Convention Center August 15th to 19th.
This year is the 141st version of the “Greatest Show on Earth” and did not disappoint. Before the actual start of the performance, any patron who could make it on the floor were treated to some up-close and personal interactions with the stars. There were feats of acrobats and juggling along with an elephant so close that the kids could almost pet it. The performers signed autographs and took pictures for everyone.
The basic theme of this edition of the circus was electricity and is entitled Fully Charged. After a clown filled opening, our ring master Brian Crawford Scott introduced the audience to what would be a fantastic night of thrills and spills.
Vasily Trifonov and Stas Knyazkov, the clowning duo, start the show with a giant plug and socket that drop from the ceiling. After a few attempts, they make the connection and the entire arena lights up in a rainbow of colors. All of the acts make the opening parade to welcome everyone to the show. It included acrobats and performers carrying puppet birds.
First up was a series of jugglers who take over all three rings. In the front ring was an acrobatic display where almost a dozen juggling discs that were in the air at the same time. He then slipped every one on his head. The crowd cheered in amazement.
The ring master and head clown gave us a rock and roll interlude that got the audience roaring, competing for the loudest side. The three rings were then taken over by Lucenir Viera de Souza and her horses, both full side and Shetland ponies. These magnificent beasts were so well trained that they could march side by side in tight circles.
In a true flashback to the old days of the side show, the strong man came out and spun a giant wooden rod over and around his body. Then he used a telephone pole as a balance beam, hoisting two ladies from both sides then spinning the entire apparatus over and around his shoulders.
The clowns took over center ring with a giant bike that they performed pratfalls, twists and turns on. The audience was cheering them on as they proved that slapstick style comedy was still a powerful mainstay of the show.
The first half ended with one of the most impressive displays of aerial stunts seen. The Fernandez Brothers used a giant spinning contraption to go around and around, stories above the ground, doing flips turns and jumping rope while keeping a precarious balance.
The second half of the circus started with the oldest staple of the circus—the lion tamer Taba. He had these beasts jump from platform to platform, roll on command and even jump on hind legs.
The last part of the show also featured a stunt almost out of Hollywood. Brian Miser, the Human Fuse, is a daredevil and was launched on a giant faux cross bow across the arena. Yes, we have seen a man shot as a cannonball, but this time the gentleman was on fire while flying through the air. It was the kind of stunt only seen in the movies, not live and indoors.
The second part of the show also featured everyone’s favorite act—the elephants. These colossal beasts did all the basic tricks we have seen before, from standing on hind legs to rolling over. They were being ridden by showgirls during the entire performance.
Probably the most interesting act and truly a different spectacle were the gymnastic stunts done on bounce stilts by the Tianyicheng Troupe. They bounced and jumped in perfect syncopation, all ablaze in neon lights. Then using a set of basketball backboards, these performers did a slam dunk exhibition that would make the NBA jealous.
The circus ended with the plug being unplugged and the crown on their feet. This is the fourth time I have covered the circus and it is the best edition by far. Every year, Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus seems to top itself. I cannot imagine how much better it will be in 2013.
This is truly a show for all ages. For those looking for a thrill, a chill, a spill and more than a few laughs, do not miss the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus. It is worth the trip.