I will never forget my very first visit to the circus. It was Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey, of course, and I was five years old. I was so excited to see the animals, acrobats and clowns, but I had no idea that a much greater memory stood to be made that day. Just before the show, I was selected from the audience by a clown. I was whisked away behind the big red curtain and placed into a seat in a miniature train backstage. As I looked around, I saw horses in front of me, elephants behind me and a bevy of colorful clowns and beautiful acrobats bustling all around me. I was in the circus parade, and I was about to ride out into the giant arena with all eyes aimed my way. This was the coolest seat in the house, and it was mine! I suppose I technically joined the circus – if only for a few fleeting minutes. I don’t remember much about being five years old, but I vividly remember that ride.
Ringling Bros. was always a big deal in my family. My dad had a tendency to be first in line when tickets went on sale for the circus, and I don’t recall ever missing it. When I had kids of my own, dad started taking them, and I somehow found myself edged out of it. I didn’t want to rob him of his “thing” with his grandchildren, but I’ll admit – I’ve been missing the “Greatest Show on Earth” for quite some time now. I was more than a little bit giddy to review Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey® Presents LEGENDSSM by invitation from Feld Entertainment at Amway Center, and I am happy to report that the greatest show has only gotten greater with age.
One of the key aspects that sets Ringling Bros apart from the rest is the level of talent in the show’s performers. The franchise has a history for showcasing the biggest personalities ever to appear under a big top, and LEGENDS maintains this tradition. It was a genuine honor to meet a few of the show’s stars prior to the event. Ringmaster Johnathan Lee Iverson is a charismatic, endearing person. As cliche as it sounds, you can feel his presence as he enters the room. He is larger-than-life, figuratively and literally – a tall man radiating a remarkable combination of humbleness and confidence. On the circus floor, his speaking voice bellows and his musicality engulfs, but behind-the-scenes, he is surprisingly reserved and soft-spoken. Johnathan Iverson epitomizes the complete package of what a Ringmaster should be – perhaps the best that Ringling Bros has ever seen.
Paulo dos Santos is the show’s “Legend Seeker” (aka: acrobat, aerial performer, comedic character), and he truly is full of high-energy talent. His contributions to the overall performance are hard to outline because he wears more hats than any circus star I’ve personally observed. You may start to believe there’s more than one Paulo on the floor because his role is ever-present and dazzling. One moment, he’s gliding across the floor with the Ringmaster in a flurry of ensemble choreography, and the next, he’s flying through the air with a jet pack, or dangling from a hot air balloon. Paulo’s physical skills are limitless, and his spunky personality pairs well with his character’s frenzied but affable presentation.
Alexander Lacey is quite possibly one of the most fascinating people I’ve ever met. Perhaps I’m a bit biased, because I do adore big cats, but I was mesmerized by his knowledge and insights on his beloved lions and tigers. Alexander was born into this lifestyle, so the care and training of big cats is easily second nature to him. To watch him talk about his family history in the field – the pride and confidence he feels is comparable to that of a parent. The bond he shares with the cats is undeniable, and evident in his face as he speaks of his daily routine, and the countless details that go into the exceptional care of his cats. His performance was my favorite, by far. I am always intrigued by the personalities of lions and tigers – how similar they are to our common house cats. This also makes it easy to measure the treatment of these animals. If you’ve ever been lucky enough to share your home with a cat, you know that they don’t hide their feelings when it comes to the people in their lives. These cats adore Alexander, and the feeling is clearly mutual.
Of course, these are just three of the many talented performers lending their skills to the Ringling Bros show. There’s a veritable slew of daredevils, comedians, and furry friends rounding out the roster. Early arrivals to the circus have the chance to wander the rings, getting up-close and personal with the show’s cast of characters. The Ringling Bros pre-show is a unique experience for memorable interaction, and a perfect opportunity to feel that whimsically appealing vibe direct from the circus floor. The performers are engaging and more than willing to share stories and information on their backgrounds and roles in the show.
The highlight of the pre-show event – elephant painting! No, this is not an opportunity for creative use with a paint roller… it’s even better! Early arrival to the circus allows you the chance to watch an elephant paint a masterpiece! Did I mention that guests have the opportunity to win these one-of-a-kind works of pachyderm art? Tell me THAT wouldn’t be a stellar conversation piece to hang over the mantle!
Speaking of the elephants, it was recently announced that Ringling Bros will be retiring their elephant stars two years sooner than originally anticipated. In early May of 2016, all current Ringling Bros performing elephants will join 29 of their predecessors at Ringling’s Center for Elephant Conservation in Polk City. This means that, for many of us, LEGENDS will provide a final opportunity to witness these iconic stars in action. The Ringling Bros elephants are known for being an extraordinary breed of Asian Elephants, receiving top-notch care and training to maintain their healthy, happy lifestyles.
At Ringling Bros, it’s not only a show for the colossal! The tiny participants play a very large part, too. Critters of all kinds play a role in a Ringling Bros show. From household pets to barnyard friends, you’ll see a little bit of everything at the circus – and you’ll see each species in an entirely new way. Watch closely for the appearance of a Pegasus and unicorn as well. This show is about legends, after all!
Of course, every Ringling Bros event features a host of human talent as well. They’ll make you laugh, and they’ll make you gasp – always leaving you to wonder how they do the variety of things they do. From high-flying routines to displays of weightless propelling and befuddling contortion, each participant offers a specialized ability that blends with the others to deliver stunning demonstrations of skill, strength and bravery.
Complete with mid-show intermission, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey® Presents LEGENDS clocks in at about two hours of performance time, and it is absolutely a non-stop two hours, indeed! The rapid pace of setup and breakdown for each individual scene is swift and seamless, with intelligent use of distracting personalities to avoid lulls in the process. From the rafters to the rings, Ringling Bros continues to deliver a traditionally epic event that earns the title of “Greatest Show on Earth”.
Stay tuned to ComeSeeOrlando.com for a full photo spread from Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey® Presents LEGENDS at Amway Center, along with a compilation performance video. Learn more about Ringling Bros and event dates online, or on Facebook or Twitter.