Sunday, January 16, 2011

Ringling Bros, Barnum & Bailey: A Review. Also, A Metaphor.

If you haven't seen the circus since you were a kid, you need to go. I took the Pirate today and could not believe how full throttle awesome it was. I think the Cirque du Soleil people have raised the bar for everybody. The circus lends itself to real life comparisons in many ways. Observations:

Kids are more excited about it than grown-ups.  The "I have a driver's license" set didn't get into the whole thing until the action started. The kids were wound like Slinkys about two coils too tight just in the line for tickets.

Pacing is key. No matter how cool something is, it gets old fast. You gotta move on to the next act.

A little mystery goes a long way. I've seen the schtick a gazillion times. I still can't figure out how the magician pokes swords through the box containing the lovely assistant and doesn't skewer said assistant in the process. Therefore, it hasn't gotten old.

You need some humor to break the tension. Between the motorcycle-on-a-high-wire act and the guy-in-a-cage-with-six-lions act, they had clowns doing funny stuff. Not the old school Pennywise kind of clowns. Cool ones with saxophones and trumpets. A nice combo of street theater and performance art. But whatever it was, it let you unclench from the "death-defying" tension of whatever came right before.

Accidents happen, so expect the best and plan for the worst. Yep. Even at the circus. During the motorcycles-in-the-spherical-cage-ball portion, they had three motorcycles scoffing at gravity while circling the cage. The damsel suspended from the wire extended her legs in an athletic mid-air chinese split and clipped one of the cyclists. He crashed in a man/motorcycle heap at the bottom of the cage. Everyone cued in immediately. The remaining cyclists came to careful halts, spotters swarmed the cage, and everyone emerged unharmed. But damn if they didn't all know what to do the second something went off script.

The show must go on. After the motorcycle crash, the performers took their bows and the next act started. No malingering on the mishap.

Everything is better with glitter. Everything is better with glitter.

My only other observation is that there is no excuse for a $10 bag of cotton candy. Ever.


  1. I love the circus. I wish everyone still did. Here they grow smaller year to year, and eventually combine with others who have grown smaller too. The Smith Circus and the Jones Circus become the Smith-Jones Circus. Then it struggles harder than ever. It hurts to see all the empty seats.

  2. I love it when the kids are genuinely excited about a show like that. We took our to see STOMP! last night, if I get a chance today I'll do a write-up on my blog...

  3. I hope you will post my comments for other parents to see, but should you decide not to. I am asking you, as one compassionate person to another, please look at these links and do your own online search. Our family loves elephant! Wanting to know more about the lives of circus and wild elephants after Ringling Bros Circus visited our area, we discovered there are two elephant sanctuaries in the United States, The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee and PAWS in California.
    Many of the elephants at these sanctuaries are former circus elephants several performed with Ringling Bros Circus, and we were shocked to learn of the horrible and abusive life these circus elephants were forced to lead just to entertain the public. Then in 2009 a retired Ringling elephant trainer released dozens of photos he took while working at Ringling’s Center for Elephant Conservation. You see Ringling trainers using a bullhooks to hook, jab and electric prod to shock baby elephants to make them perform circus tricks. Ringling made this statement about these photos of their baby elephants, they say, “our elephants are being trained with food rewards, patience and love.”
    These photos speak for themselves. If you feel that animals should be treated humanely, you’ll demand that Ringling stop their animal acts and use only human performers. You don’t have to beat the human entertainment to make them perform but you do the exotic animals. We love our family dog and we would never allow anyone to beat her with a fireplace poker and electric prod to make her learn to perform tricks.

  4. Steve: I know, right? I did not have very high expectations and was pleasantly surprised.

    Rick: Yeah, it is so fun. Mine would love Stomp. Drumline is coming here soon and I'd like to take them to that but Beauty and the Beast is also coming and I think that is more of a sure thing for the Princess. Pirate will love either one.

    Jane: Of course your comment will be posted! You didn't say anything offensive. You stated your case and provided documentation without being at all accusatory. I feel the same way about greyhound racing that you do about the animals trained to perform in the circus and will certainly look into the information you provided.

    One of the things I was impressed with yesterday was the overall condition of the animals although it always unnerves me to see animals from a savannah habitat in small quarters.

  5. I see now that my life should be a circus. In a good way. They got that stuff down.


  6. Laurel if you haven't read this article yet,it's about vanishing greyhound raising in Florida, they say it is just a matter of time before it ends. Hopefully other states will follow and end the abuse of these dogs.

    Your right about the elephants overall condition, but looks are deceiving, the wounds from the bullhooks are covered up with Wonderdust so the public can't see.
    This recent video documentary called " Man and Elephant: Litany of Tragedy" is posted on You Tube. This documentary will leave no doubts about the circuses treatment of their elephants. Crossroads Middle School students and teacher Melya Kaplan in Santa Monica California did a class study on captive elephants, listen to actual students talk about what they uncovered.

  7. Laurel, I have been to Ringling Bros twice in my life. Once was when I was about three years old, and we took the train into New York to see it at Madison Square Garden. I will never forget that moment when we got to the top of the stairs and looked down into that three ring festival of light and people and noise and, yes, glitter. Being only three, I don't remember much else, but that one moment is seared into my memory. It will be one of the few that remains when I go senile in my old age.

    The other time was last summer, on our trip through Las Vegas. I was very impressed with the acts--the contortionists, especially, and some of the acrobats, and truly the motorcycle lunatics in that sphere cage. No accidents at our show... they had SEVEN bikes spinning around in there like a mini hurricane of metal and fuel. Absolutely breathtaking.

    I don't feel a need to go ever again, but I'm glad my boys got to go before whatever magic it still has is gone forever.

  8. Loved this post even though I agree with Jane about the elephants. The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee is one of my regular charities.

    One thing I don't think Jane mentioned is the health risk to people from elephants sick with TB.

    It's a sad day when something so magical is really crap underneath, but that does seem to be our reality these days.