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Circus offers nostalgia with a modern twist

Published September 23, 2010 1:47 pm
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2010, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

When times are tough, many long to escape with something familiar.

Thus, when ringmaster Jonathan Lee Iverson opened the 140th edition of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus on Wednesday night at EnergySolutions Arena with the familiar "Ladies and gentleman, boys and girls of all ages. …" refrain, the world seemed right, even if for just a moment.

This year's edition, called the Funundrum, is almost a contradiction in terms. Call it a modernistic look at nostalgia. The circus uses state-of-the-art LED computer screens that move from the top to the bottom of the arena to celebrate its history.

Whether celebrating P.T. Barnum or Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show, displaying nostalgic newspaper covers with blaring headlines announcing the coming of the circus to town or utilizing turn-of-the-century cartoons to introduce the live tiger portion of the show, the screens proved effective.

But some things never change: Iverson used all too familiar lines such as "You won't believe your eyes," or "A moment you shall never forget" or "Once in a lifetime," to build excitement.

This show, which runs through Sunday, is action packed and employs 130 performers from six continents. Among the performers are 15 trampoline bouncers, 10 gymnasts on a teeterboard, six trapeze artists, seven motorcycle riders and plenty of clowns.

In fact, there are times when so many things are happening that it becomes difficult to focus. Young children love the circus but many in attendance on opening night Wednesday showed fatigue a bit past 9 p.m., after a 15-minute intermission. It would be best for those under six to take in a Friday, Saturday or Sunday matinee.

Also, don't be surprised to be greeted by sign waving animal-rights activists near the arena entrances who don't like animals to be used for entertainment.

It would be difficult to pick an act that stood out, because so many seemed unbelievable.

Three young women, who billed themselves as the "Body Benders," did things with the human body that seemed impossible. At one point, the three stuffed themselves into a small, clear plastic box and then extricated themselves one at a time, despite being apparently wrapped around each other.

The Globe of Steel, where seven motorcyclists ride into a tiny steel cage all at once and then speed around at breakneck speeds, sometimes going upside down and at times bathed only in black light, is high on the thrill level.

And the colorful trampoline bouncers near the end of the program in an act that might be called "synchronized trampoline" were perhaps the most artful part of the show. —

If you go

What • The 140th edition of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus.

Where • EnergySolutions Arena.

When • 7 p.m. today; 3:30 and 7:30 p.m. Friday; 11 a.m., 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. Saturday; and 1:30 and 5:30 p.m. Sunday.

Tickets • $11 to $82 at energysolutionsarena.com. Ticket holders can also tour the Animal Open House on 100 South across from the arena 90 minutes before show time or meet the performers on the arena floor one hour before show time.






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