The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus is currently performing at the Coliseum in Hampton, VA through April 20, 2014. In our area for its annual tour, it stopped at Norfolk’s Scope the week previously for shows from April 8 – 13.
Those desiring to gain the full measure of the show needed to be by the animal enclosures at 6:00 p.m. with tickets in hand to garner a closer look at many of the animal celebrities who would be performing a little later in the evening. Children and adults alike were thrilled to get within a few yards of lions, tigers, horses, goats, llamas, wallabies and a group of playful elephants.
Moving to the indoors for the 6:30 p.m. pre-show was most welcome due to the cool, brisk wind blowing outdoors Thursday evening. Those with programs were encouraged to gain autographs from performers who were in the staging area. Any of the children who ventured out to the stage could have their pictures taken with them, receive a temporary tattoo proclaiming The Greatest Show on Earth, wear an outfit that a performer might wear and receive their very own clown nose – free.
Moving to your reserved seats prior to the 7:30 p.m. starting time allowed you to be ready for the grand entrance of Ringmaster Johnathan Lee Iverson to the tune of “Jump.” It was an apropos opening for the spirited storyteller of this year’s Legends circus experience. Paulo, the Legend seeker, enters with him and is a major player throughout the show.
Iverson led the crowd in the singing of the National Anthem, accompanied by a live orchestra. As honor was being given to our great nation, one of the beautiful women performers carried an American flag while riding a huge elephant.
Afterwards, the show began with a parade-walk similar in nature to that of the Olympics, where all – or most all- of the performers took a walk around the ring, waving to the crowd, in anticipation of performing for them. The variety of styles and colors of clothing, as well as the multi-cultural unity presented by the group, gives one hope for a world of unity one day.
The two acts most comparable in terms of raw courage and nerves of steel are almost an antithesis of each other. No doubt, any person willing to stand in an enclosure with seven lions and tigers with only a bullwhip to protect himself must exude the “Alpha” persona throughout the act. Asking not one, but two, of these beautiful, wild beasts to give you a kiss and trusting you will step back with your head intact, much less your lips, is surely not an act of cowardice.
The act most comparable to that would have to be the Amazing Acceleration act of the Torres family. Beginning with 3 motorcycles all but flying around a globe of steel, the act builds to having 8 cyclists revving around the globe at the same time, sometimes coming within four inches of each other. The timing for such an act must be to the nearest milli-second and does not allow for anything less than the performer’s complete attention.
Unlike most circuses attended in the past, there seemed to be far fewer “hawkers” moving up and down the steps while the performances were occurring. For those with children in attendance, that must have been a welcome difference as it allowed for one’s attention to be on the ring and not on what was for sale.
The accompanying list will showcase some of the scenes from Legends, the latest production of The Greatest Show on Earth.
Two of the lions and tigers that were on display outside Hampton Coliseum Thursday night prior to the 7:30 performance of the Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey circus. Nice to be that close to them as long as those enclosures are secure.
Wannabe a Wallaby?
Wallabies were part of this year's Greatest Show on Earth. This one is part of the act led by Vicki Zsilak, who also trains goats, llamas and a miniature pony not much bigger than a large dog.
Time to go
The baby elephant bedazzled the group by tossing around the tire much like a child would toss a hula hoop. When it was time to head back to the "barn," he seemed to be saying, "Wait, mom, I've got to get my toy tire first."
Send in the clowns
Clowns took turns performing in the staging area and taking pictures with the kids during the pre-show activities. It was a wonderful opportunity for kids of all ages to get an up-close look at the antics of these very talented performers.
Who's steering these bikes?
Almost every time this China National Acrobatic Troupe went around the ring, they were doing different acrobatic acts; however, none rivaled the ending circle when they became a human pyramid of twenty people balanced on two golden bicycles while emulating the beauty, flair and shape of a splendid peacock's tail.
Globe of Steel
Eight motorcycle riders circle this globe of steel at an amazing 60 miles per hour, often only four inches apart. This globe of steel is only 16 feet in diameter. When the motorcyclists are at full speed, they appear as little more than giant lightning bugs as they whirl around.
Animal trainer Alexander Lacey was raised among these regal felines, his family having raised eleven generations of lions and nine generations of tigers. No wonder he sees these big cats as his brothers and sisters.
The spraying king of beasts
Alexander Lacey has obviously gained the respect, trust and affection of this king of the jungle as they twirl around the middle of their special enclosure. It's a good thing as this lion was spraying everyone who dared come near his cage during the outside exhibition.
Have you ever seen llamas jump hurdles? Goats maneuver an over/under metallic circle? Get a mule to follow directions on command? If not, go see this year's performance of Legends, the current production of the Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey circus.
Having been raised on a farm, I would have never believed pigs could be trained to follow directions - but I guess the pigs we raised just never had the right trainers. And they did it amongst the dogs, too!!!
And the band played on ...
No canned music for the circus. This small orchestra was absolutely splendid. They never missed a beat from beginning to end, providing the just the right amount of emotion for each performance and never flinching as the animals came right past them.