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Video: Opening Night at Ringling Bros “Built To Amaze”

January 12, 2013

Ringling elephant shows off a painting during the Built To Amaze preshow.

The circus came back to town this week, as Ringling Bros. Barnum and Bailey debuted their latest production at Orlando's Amway Center on Thursday night.

As detailed in the preview I posted recently, “Built To Amaze” is based around the construction of the circus itself. The tenuous theme is mostly evident in the energetic though overlong opening number, featuring an earwig theme song that repeats all show. Fortunately, the thorough-line is tenuous enough not to interfere with the animals and acrobats that should the true focus. Similarly, the new set is more streamlined, without distracting dangling video screens.

Most significantly, the structure of the show has been designed to minimize transitional dead time; as the trapeze artists are walking upside-down high above the arena floor (eat your hear out, Mary Poppins) the tiger tamer is herding his kitties into the center ring, making the flow between acts almost seamless.

Among the traditional dancing horses, human cannonball, contortionists and clowns, the most entertaining original act added to this year's “Greatest Show on Earth” is the King Charles troupe of basketball-playing unicyclists. I'd give good money to see these guys go up against the Harlem Globetrotters.

Finally, my favorite part of the circus comes first. The free “All Access” preshow, starting one hour prior to showtime, lets you walk the area floor and interact up-close with the circus stars. It's one thing to see astounding feats and exotic animals from the bleachers, but another when they're just a few feet in front of you. Below, find a couple brief videos I shot during opening night's preshow highlighting Ringling's famous clowns, and an elephant with an eye for abstract art.

This circus' one flaw is that it can make a very long, expensive night for a family outing. The first act alone is 80 minutes, following a full hour of preshow. By the time intermission came at almost 9pm, the young kids I attended with had gone from rapt attention to the edge of unconsciousness. And though ticket prices start at $15, the $12 bags of cotton candy and $22 dollar store glow toys can take a big bite.

Remaining show times are 3:30pm and 7:30pm Saturday, 1pm and 5pm Sunday.


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