A Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey clown (pictured here) performs an aerial somersault during a January 14, 2017 show in Orlando, Florida. The Greatest Show on Earth' is making a comeback, without animal acts - five years after shutting down its three-ring circus, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey announced Wednesday, May 18, 2022
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Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey said Wednesday it is making a comeback with a new variation of their iconic ‘The Greatest Show on Earth’ as it prepares to debut in September 2023.

The new circus act will have no animals but will have live performers doing extraordinary acts.

Feld Entertainment, the owner of the historic circus, called it a ‘multi-platform entertainment franchise.’

In 2017, the circus closed its doors and stopped touring, after a 146-year-run, amid a drop in ticket sales and conflicted fans, who became upset by wildfire acts and its treatment of circus animals.

Auditions have been taking place across the globe in countries including: Argentina, Mongolia, Ethiopia, France and the United States.   

More than a thousand performers will be joining the big red top, and will take part in a 50-city North American tour that is set to kick off in September 2023, with international dates to follow, according to the team.

A Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey clown (pictured here) performs an aerial somersault during a January 14, 2017 show in Orlando, Florida. The Greatest Show on Earth' is making a comeback, without animal acts - five years after shutting down its three-ring circus, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey announced Wednesday, May 18, 2022

A Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey clown (pictured here) performs an aerial somersault during a January 14, 2017 show in Orlando, Florida. The Greatest Show on Earth’ is making a comeback, without animal acts – five years after shutting down its three-ring circus, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey announced Wednesday, May 18, 2022

‘For us, Ringling is about bringing the world´s talents to people´s hometowns,’ Feld Entertainment Chief Operating Officer, Juliette Feld Grossman told The Associated Press.

‘We are entertainment for everyone and it´s important that everyone who comes to the show finds something and someone that they can really connect and relate to.’

The company heard from many fans after ending their monumental run six years ago following intense criticism over its use of circus animals.

Feld Grossman said they listened to what their fans had to say and re-imagined how to ‘keep the franchise fresh and alive.’

In the new production, audiences will become ‘co-collaborators’ with the performers, bringing them closer to the action and creating a different experience with every show, she said.

Ringling also wants to ‘tell the personal stories of the performers,’ she said.

‘Our performers dedicate their lives to doing oftentimes risky, very technically challenging and athletic performances, and they do it because they are passionate about it,’ she said. 

‘And we want our audience to know more about them to understand how they trained, where they came from, what inspired them to create and develop this particular skill.’

Ringling Bros has been known for its staple of lions, tigers, and elephants, and other animal acts. 

And, in 2016, the elephants was were dropped from their shows which eventuall followed costly court battles.

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus ringmaster Kristen Michelle Wilson (pictured center right) gives a crew member a hug after the May 7, 2017 final performance in Providence, R.I

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus ringmaster Kristen Michelle Wilson (pictured center right) gives a crew member a hug after the May 7, 2017 final performance in Providence, R.I 

Shortly after the announcement was made on Wednesday, People for Ethical Treatment of Animals posted  a statement on Twitter. ‘Big news in family show space: @FeldEnt is bringing Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey Circus back on the road in 2023. No animals as part of the production, says company COO Juliette Feld Grossman.’

PETA wrote in a blog that ‘the announcement comes after they wrote to Grossman in 2020, after learning of the circus’s potential return, in which they urged her and the company to employ only willing human talent in future productions.’ 

They praised Feld Grossman for their new initiative, saying, in part: ‘Feld’s forward-thinking revolution proves that circuses can dazzle audiences with willing human performers and that no animal need ever be exploited in the process.’

Feld Grossman, who made the announcement during a conference in Seattle, said, in part ‘it became clear that the circus still ‘holds a special place in people´s hearts,’ referring to the show’s six-year hiatus, the AP reported. 

‘Any time I meet someone and I tell them something about what I do, they tell me their personal story about Ringling and the first time they went, or the most memorable time that they went.

‘That´s something that confirms to us, that validates that we have something special here,’ Feld Grossman said.

She continued: ‘It´s going to be really special for parents to bring their children and to bring the grandparents as well, and to have that continuity across generations of enjoying a kind of entertainment that has been around for so long but still speaks to today.’

From a travelling circus to the ‘The Greatest Show on Earth’… a history of the Ringling Bros:

  • 1841: Phineas Taylor Barnum purchases Scudder’s American Museum in New York City, and renames it Barnum’s American Museum. The museum is also a zoo, lecture hall and freak show that also has artifacts from around the world. The museum later burns down.
  • 1871: Barnum’s show begins traveling
  • 1881: Barnum partners with James A. Bailey and James . Hutchinson for Phineas Taylor Barnum’s ‘P.T. Barnum’s Greatest Show on Earth’
  • 1882: The Ringling Brothers, Albert, Otto, Alfred, Charles and John, were five of the seven of the Ringling brothers, sons of German immigrant August Frederick Rungeling (later known as Ringling), who started their own backyard circus. That year, they performed their first vaudeville-style show in Mazomanie, Wisconsin. In the show, two brothers danced, two played instruments and one sang. The brothers used their profits to purchase evening suits and top hats. 
  • 1884: The Ringling Brothers Circus begins as a traveling performance which starte4d with a traveling wagon, a rented horse, and a partnership with veteran, Yankee Robinson, who died two years later
  • 1889: The sixth Rungeling brother, Henry joined the show while Gus, the seventh brother joined soon after. Each brother had their own role in the enterprise
  • 1895: The Ringling Brothers travel to New England to meet with the powerful Barnum and Bailey Circus. The two circuses join forces but agree to divide the U.S. region rather than compete with one another. The Ringling Brothers  their establish headquarters in Chicago. Barnum and Bailey stay in New York. 
  • 1900: Ringling Brothers has one of the largest traveling shows and begins buying other circuses 
  • 1907: After James Bailey dies, the Ringlings buy Barnum and Bailey. They keep the circuses separate. 
  • 1919: The Ringling circus has over 1,000 employees, 335 horses, 26 elephants, 16 camels and other animals that travel on 92 railcars, the Wisconsin Historical Society reported
  • 1919: The two circuses merge and become known as ‘Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Combined Shows, the Greatest Show on Earth’
  • 1927: John Ringling moves circus headquarters to Sarasota, Florida
  • 1929: Jon Ringling purchased the American Circus Corporation, a conglomeration of five major shows 
  • 1944: Fire breaks out at a July 6 performance in Hartford, Conn., killing about 168 people and injuring hundreds.   
  • 1952: Paramount Pictures releases The Greatest Show on Earth, starring Betty Hutton, Charlton Heston, Jimmy Stewart and hundreds of the circus’ cast, crew and animals. The film wins Academy Award for best picture.
  • 1967: Members of the Ringling family sell the circus to music and entertainment promoter Irvin Feld, which was acquired in a formal ceremony at the Roman Colosseum. The Feld family, who kept the name.
  • 1985: Kenneth Feld, Irvin’s son, becomes the owner after his father dies.
  • 1999: Ringling names its first African-American ringmaster, Johnathan Lee Iverson.
  • 2016: Ringling retires elephants from its circus shows. The animals are moved to its Center for Elephant Conservation in Polk County, Fla. In December, the circus announces its first female ringmaster, Kristen Michelle Wilson.
  • 2017: Feld Entertainment announces it will close the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus.

 

 

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