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Ringling Bros and Barnum and Bailey Circus is back

Elysha and I took the kids to Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey Circus this weekend.

Much has changed since my first visit years ago. The circus went on hiatus in May of 2017 and only returned to the big top last year after transforming itself in many ways.

First and most noticeable, animals are no longer part of the show. Elephants, tigers, lions, zebras, horses, and the rest have been eliminated because of concerns for the animals’ well-being and the safety of guests and staff.

In their place was a robotic dog named Bailey that was fine but definitely not needed. Had Bailey been destroyed by an oversized hammer as a part of the show, I would’ve cheered.

The animals were not missed.

The humans—more than 75 in all, hailing from more than 18 countries—were more than impressive. We were highly entertained by the acrobatics, the high wire, the trapeze, the unicycles, the human cannonball, and many other incredible displays of physical impossibilities.

The single ringleader has been replaced with a team of three hosts, including one who sings and another who plays the drums at times. All were engaging, multitalented, and hilarious.

The clowns have also changed considerably. Somewhere along the way, traditional clowns became frightening to small children, so the painted faces and red noses have been replaced by a couple of makeup-free middle-aged men who are admittedly quite funny and skilled in juggling and acrobatics, but they look more like a pair of your least favorite uncles than traditional clowns.

Surprisingly, I didn’t mind this change. They were still hilarious.

The set is also pretty spectacular. Lighted video screens, fire, smoke, and constantly shifting elements allow for an engaging visual display.

Our only complaint about the show was the sound quality. The ringleaders weren’t always audible, and we often had to strain to understand what they were saying. As a person obsessed with the sound of his shows, better sound is very doable. I’m unsure if it was the function of the specific venue or an overall problem, but correcting it should be a priority.

Otherwise, the circus is back with a new look and is well worth seeing.