It’s been a long time since I’ve been to a circus so I was curious to see what the “Greatest Show on Earth” would be like with my 5-year-old son.
The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Legends show, which runs through Aug. 9 in Dallas and also makes a stop in Fort Worth in mid-August, has all the elements that you would expect from the grand dame of circus shows: daring feats of acrobatics, goofy clowns and a well-trained menagerie. However, Legends tries to walk the tightrope between circus spectacle and musical pageantry with some success.
Let’s address the literal elephant in the room. When you go to any circus, there will be protesters lined up at entrances who say they’re supporting the performing animals. Despite the efforts of Ringling Bros. to dispel the accusations of animal cruelty including building an elephant conservation center, news of illegal lion hunting and animal trainer deaths at water parks may turn off some families. Going to the circus will probably not change your beliefs, one way or another.
After watching the lengthy Legends show, the animal acts go out of their way to show the connection between the animals and the trainers. Big Cats trainer Alexander Lacey even goes as far as kissing a lion on the mouth. During the elephant portion of the show, Ringmaster Johnathan Lee Iverson provides the FAQ on animal care, which is repeated during intermission with a mini-doc on big TV monitors.
There’s no doubt, if you go, that you will be in awe of the amazing feats of our four-legged friends. What surprised me was that my 5-year-old was more enamored with the cute dogs -- “They were funny” -- than the exotic animals. Therein lies the rub. In an age when dogs-looking-like bears and grumpy cats rule the internet, do we really need to be entertained by lions and tigers and elephants? Honestly, the most offensive animal displays I saw came in the parade of a creepy looking Pegasus, unicorn and woolly mammoth.
What also surprised me was the “circus” played out as a musical. Iverson aptly performs songs throughout the show, backed by a live band. While there was a loose story line, the sound was difficult to hear in the huge arena so any theme was lost to the audience.
While there were many daredevil acts, the Torres family’s Globe of Steel motorcycle and the Thundering Cossack Warriors equestrian team were standouts. Unfortunately, a few of the opening night death-defying stunts were either marred by trips and falls or not completed at all.
Overall, the two-hour-plus intermission event could have been better spent with more time honing the human acts and less time being over-the-top.
Maricar Estrella, 817-390-7720
Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey® presents LEGENDS
Good to know: There’s free pre-show for ticketholders and hour before the start of the show where you can get autographs and take photos with the performers.
In Dallas: Through August 9 at American Airlines Center, 2500 Victory Ave., Dallas, TX 75219
In Fort Worth: August 12-16 at Fort Worth Convention Center, 1201 Houston Street, Fort Worth, TX 76102
Cost: $15-$90, www.ticketmaster.com