We’ve already seen the impact the Arena has made on the community’s entertainment. There are NHL and NBA exhibition games and a plethora of concerts coming to town.
But wait, there’s more: The new venue has paved the way for - trumpets please - “The Greatest Show on Earth!”
That’s right, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus lands in the Arena on Wednesday for a five-day run.
For those of you who may not be familiar with the three-ring big top, it’s the country’s largest and oldest circus. More than 140 performers and dozens of animals comprise Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey.
It’s also, without a doubt, the best circus ever to caravan into Spokane.
The show travels via its privately owned 52-car train to 95 cities during a two-year tour. In that time, the three-ring circus gives more than 1,000 performances.
There’s a reason why Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus is tops of the big tops. The circus has 125 years of history standing behind it.
While so many forms of entertainment such as vaudeville and live radio serialized shows became extinct, Ringling Bros. continues to be an essential and timeless staple of American entertainment.
Plus, many of the circus’ performers come from generations of circus performers. The list includes animal trainer Mark Oliver Gebel and “Wheel of Death” surfers Ivan and Noe Espana. Some performers, such as Ringling’s “boss clown” David Larible and his sister trapeze artist Vivien Larible, are seventh-generation circus stars.
For most of the artists, the circus is in their blood; hence, night after night, the circus puts on a near-perfect performance.
Many of the performers come from as far away as Russia, Morocco and China, adding a cultural diversity to the show.
Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey also has survived 125 years because it consistently has found ways to outdo itself. Sure, the traditional circus elements such as trapeze acts, animal stunts, acrobatics and clown shenanigans remain the focal point of the show. But to give the show a more modern flare, it’s rounded out by numerous acts that have only recently become major attractions at the big top.
A hundred years ago, you would never have seen freestyle BMX bicycle riding at the circus. There also wasn’t a globe of death with three motorcycle riders buzzing around the inside of a global steel cage. Further, no one ever thought to compose an aerial ballet using bungee cords. Nor would there have been a group of urban, hip-hopping rollerbladers/ tumblers.
In other words, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus has something for everyone.
The program packs 25 displays into 2-1/2 hours. For the most part, there’s something happening simultaneously in all rings.
The show kicks off with a grand parade. All performers ranging from the mighty wild kingdom of animals (elephants, camels, horses and zebras) to the ornately decorated dancers to prankish clowns join in the march.
One of the night’s most impressive acts is a group of acrobats that combine acrobatics and gymnastics into their routine. During this display, a daring tumbler will hop onto a pliable beam about three inches in diameter. The pole is held on each end by two people. The acrobat is then thrust into the air by the beam holders, where the aerialist executes a series of tumbles and lands on the beam. It’s amazing how the person makes it look so easy.
Alexander Chervotkin rides a seatless unicycle. Even more, he can jump from one unicycle to another with the greatest of ease.
The Chicago Kidz, a group of tumblers and acrobats, leap over elephants. One of the boys clears five elephants at one time, thus making him the Evel Knievel of tumbling.
The Flying Pages, the circus’ trapeze artists, pull off quite a thrilling, yet graceful, aerial performance. Keep your eye on Jill Pages. She is the first woman to complete a 3-1/2 somersault on the trapeze.
Trainers Gebel and Tyrone Taylor risk their necks on a playground of wild animals including Bengal tigers.
Make plans to arrive at the circus early. Twenty minutes before the whistle blows (that’s how ringmaster Eric Michael Gillet inaugurated the circus), the 18 clowns of “Clown Alley” engage in their various chuckle-inducing tomfooleries and antics.
MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: RINGLING BROS. AND BARNUM & BAILEY CIRCUS Location and time: The Arena, Wednesday, Thursday and Sept. 22 at 7:30 p.m., Sept. 23 at 11 a.m. and 3:30 and 7:30 a.m.; and Sept. 24 at 1 and 5 p.m. Tickets: $10.50 to $14.50; $3.50 discount coupons at Rosauers for Wednesday show, $2 off children under age 12 on Thursday