There’s plenty of glitz to this year’s edition of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, at Madison Square Garden through April 15, but the ingredients that make up the core of the show are dazzling on their own. The wrapping is ultra contemporary, with fireworks effects, show people in bright costumes, mod music and “All Access” pre-show doings in the arena for youngsters to interact with circus personnel, don costumes in which to be photographed and cavort in ways they’ll remember.
As for the show itself, I had a really good time, especially with some of my favorite acts. First, there is a comic artistry of Bello Nock, the super clown with the high rise blond hair. He is not only funny, but he is a skillful gymnast who can get into the act and show his stuff that goes beyond churning mere laughter. He is among the best in the long line of traditional circus clowns, and ideally suited to the modern age with his over-all versatility. There is also the congenial ringmaster, Tyrone McFarlan, who exudes the required pumped-up enthusiasm.
My favorite for charm and fun is the Olates family dog act. This is the first time with Ringling Bros. for the expert dog trainers from Chile. Their Poodles, Maltese and Yorkies are a riot leaping through hoops, pushing one another, and in the case of their star Priscilla, doing a series of back flips.
I’m always a sucker for trapeze artists, and the Flying Poemas do incredible stunts above—30 feet above to be exact—somersaulting, catching one another, and pulling off some incredible mid-air flips.
Ever see tigers get up on their hind legs and walk? Trainer Tabayara Maluenda, who hails from Chile, puts the big cats through their paces with flair. Wallenda is a renowned name in circus history, and in this edition, acrobats Nicholas and Erendira Wallenda do some fantastic pole work and fast stepping on rings of steel.
What would a circus be with out the parading of trained horses? Sylvio and Stefi Schwitchtenberg are in charge of that exotic showmanship. You could ask the same question about elephants. They are also a major part of this circus, parading before the crowd, and being put through their routines, which include standing on their hind legs and climbing atop stools. Elephants are majestic creatures. (Last year my wife and I rode one in India.) It is always great to see them, and this circus makes a point of bragging about how well they are treated, a pre-emptive strike against those who traditionally question training elephants for circus chores.
The current circus also keeps its traditional closing act of shooting humans from a cannon, in this case a couple. Today’s cannon is shaped like a long cylinder. No matter. Out go the daredevils in the midst of blazing lighting and sound effects.
All this and so much more can be seen at Madison Square Garden, as the old promotional saying goes, “by children of all ages.”