Who doesn’t love the circus? A lot of people, it seemed, objected to the traditional three-ring event with animal acts. Allegations of animal cruelty and a heightened consciousness about creature care eventually led to the closure of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, also known as “The Greatest Show on Earth.” Even among those who weren’t protesting animal mistreatment, interest waned. Attendance declined.
But Feld Entertainment, which owns The Greatest Show, has revived its commitment to the motivating motto, “The show must go on!” Kenneth Feld, chief executive officer of the entertainment group, says, “We knew we were going to come back.”
Feld announced that North America will see a return of the circus this year. But this time, the traveling spectacle will be reimagined and reborn without animals. It’s described as a high-octane family event with highwire tricks, soaring trapeze artists, and bicycles leaping on trampolines. The tour kicks off in the fall.
Expect the air overhead to be filled with performers. Visualize a triangular high wire 25 feet above ground, crisscrossing flying trapeze artists, a spinning double wheel powered by acrobats and BMX trail bikes, unicycle riders, and skateboarders doing tricks. Whew! Even the description is breathtaking.
But Feld says it will be even better in person. Words and pictures fall short, he believes. “There is no substitute for live entertainment. You cannot get an emotional response from people looking at a two-dimensional screen as you can when they are experiencing ‘The Greatest Show on Earth’ or any kind of live entertainment,” he says.
While emphasizing the value of the in-person experience, Feld does welcome technological advances for the modern version of the event which started before the days of the automobile. The new design includes two main stages and moveable staircases. Audiences will have a 360° view with live camera feeds and virtual reality contributing.
“The technology in the show is about enhancing experience,” says Juliette Feld Grossman, chief operating officer of Feld Entertainment. “We have so much activity and action, so we want to make sure that we never miss the biggest moments in the show.” She promises to “give the audience something . . . they didn’t even know to anticipate.”
The Feld family bought the circus in 1967. It has purchased and created other large-scale touring shows as well, including Disney on Ice, Marvel Live, and Monster Jam. But Feld says there’s something about the circus that people hold dear.
“Why there is a circus and a form of circus literally every place on the planet is that people emotionally are basically the same,” he claims.
What gets the credit for that sameness? People were designed to behold the glory of God. The Bible describes Him as awesome, majestic, arrayed in splendor. Might the appeal of the grandeur and magnificence of “The Greatest Show on Earth” reveal a longing instilled in each of us by our Creator, whom we will one day see face to face?
(This combination of photos shows art renderings for the reimagined Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. The show will offer highwire tricks, soaring trapeze artists, and bicycles leaping on trampolines—but no animals. Ringling Bros and Barnum and Bailey via AP)