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Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus: A Spectacular Show 200 Years in the Making!

March 23, 2010 - by Ellis Nassour
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Read about the 2013 edition here.

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey has roared into town on its mile-long train. The 140th Edition of “The Greatest Show on Earth,” Barnum’s FUNundrum!, encamped at Madison Square Garden through Easter Sunday, April 4th, sure isn’t your Mom and Dad’s circus. It’s spine-tingling, edge-of-the-seat thrills, and tons of laughter.

Producers Alana and Nicole Feld, daughters of Kenneth Feld, CEO, Feld Entertainment, set out to create a 200th birthday salute to one of the world’s great showmen, P.T. Barnum. They ended up with the biggest show in Ringling history.

“Nicole and Alana represent a new era,” says Mr. Feld. “They’re the first women to produce the show together, the third generation of our family to do so. I’m proud of the energy and direction they brought.”

“Our family wants to ensure this American institution continues as a living legacy,” says Nicole. “FUNundrum takes live entertainment to a new level. We wanted to blow it out in a way so audiences would say, ‘How’d they do that?’”

Alana adds, “We grew up with so many circus memories. Now we get to create memories that’ll rekindle the magic of circus for young and old. We asked, ‘What would P.T. Barnum do?’ The result is over the top, with 130 performers from six continents.”

To help with this monumental task, dancer/choreographer Amy Tinkham, who’s worked with Madonna, Aerosmith, and the Dixie Chicks, was handpicked to direct.  

Ironically, she’d never seen a circus during her childhood. “That made my job more exciting. Nicole and Alana said it could be whatever I wanted. For the kid in me, it was like, ‘Open the floodgates and let it flow.’ Every moment is bigger than the next as we provide an escape from the daily grind and take audiences through a kaleidoscope of spectacle and fantasy celebrating the circus’ uplifting spirit.”

Among the thrilling acts is the seven-strong Flying Caceres on double-decker trapezes. Third-generation Colombian circus veteran George Caceres states, “Our goal is to push the limits.” Brazilian Ivo Silva Jr. amps up the intensity by attempting to land the difficult quadruple, where he spins effortlessly 40 feet above the arena. Landing in the hands of Canadian catcher Daniel Simard, flying through the air upside-down and backwards, with split-second timing, is the trick. He continues his quest every performance. Since accomplishing it, he’s come “this close” numerous times.

Paraguay’s Torres Family orbits a 16-foot Globe of Steel, on seven motorcycles at 65 miles per hour. Other fearless daredevils include Russia’s high-wire Makarov Troupe, balancing partners on their heads, performing splits, somersaults, and a hair-raising, rarely performed back flip. The 20-strong Chinese Puyang Troupe bounce in unison on gargantuan trampolines and fly through rings 20 feet in the air.

Fifth-generation Argentine Daniel Raffo presents 12 ferocious Siberian, Sumatra, and Bengal tigers. In addition to the show’s wow factor, there’s the ouch factor: Mexico’s fifth-generation circus artist Andrea Ayala suspended 30 feet up, spinning by her braided hair while fire juggling.

Elephants are a huge part of Ringling shows, and Joe Frisco’s performing herd show their stuff in an Egyptian-themed act featuring stunning Brazilian showgirls.  

There’s more: Russian acrobats on flexible bars; Alex Petrov’s motorcycle high-wire stunts; cowboy/rodeo rider Andre McClain’s animals, including a rarely seen Watusi; more daredevils; and, topping it all off, side-splitting clown high jinks.

“The fun begins one hour before show time,” points out Nicole, “with the All Access Pre-show, which affords interaction between families and our artists. The performers like it because it gives them an opportunity to know audiences.” Kelly Ann, the “Picasso of Pachyderms,” paints a masterpiece for an audience member to take home. You can clown around with, well, a clown; get autographs; and try on colorful costumes. They don’t call it “The Greatest Show on Earth” for nothing!

Barnum’s Funundrum! runs March 25th through April 4th at Madison Square Garden. For tickets, call 866-858-0008 or click here.

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