Ringling Bros. brings back 'Greatest Show' for 50-city tour. But is it still a circus?

Feld Entertainment plans to launch the newest iteration of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey’s “Greatest Show on Earth” in Bossier City, La. in September, two years after the company announced a revival of the traveling show.

“Circus” is no longer part of the name of the Ringling Bros. show, which came to an end when Feld shut down the touring performances in 2017 after 146 years. The more than 50-city tour will include a six-show weekend at Tampa’s Amalie Arena Jan. 5-7.

The Palmetto-based company, which produces Ringling Bros., Disney on Ice, Marvel Universe LIVE!, Sesame Street LIVE and other stadium and arena-type shows, announced the new production on Monday.

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A rendering of what the new Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey “Greatest Show on Earth” will look like when it begins performances in September.
A rendering of what the new Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey “Greatest Show on Earth” will look like when it begins performances in September.

In a statement, Feld said the show would be “set on the ultimate playground – where see-saws send you flying, balance beams float high in the sky and music keeps you moving to all kinds of bombastic beats.” It will follow two circus newcomers “on a journey of self-discovery as they dream big dreams, meet awe-inspiring talent, and strive to find where they fit in the circus.”

The company said the creative team, led by directors Dan Shipton and Ross Nicholson, is “revolutionizing the way audiences view and participate in live entertainment.” Shipton and Nicholson, partners in the London-based company Black Skull Creative, have staged numerous large-scale stadium shows, live pop music tours and television productions.

Designer Josh Zangen runs a multidisciplinary design studio and has worked on numerous Broadway shows. Feld Entertainment describes him as a “visual storyteller with experience planning tour stages for A-list musical artists.”

After the Sept. 29-Oct. 1 opening performances, the tour will continue to Cleveland, Milwaukee, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Rosemont, Illinois, Kansas City, Missouri and four more cities before coming to its former winter quarters in Tampa.

The company describes the show as an “immersive entertainment experience” that celebrates talented athletes and performers from around the world.

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A computer rendering of a trapeze act in the new Ringling Bros. “Greatest Show on Earth.”
A computer rendering of a trapeze act in the new Ringling Bros. “Greatest Show on Earth.”

It will feature what it describes as “four jaw-dropping new acts,” including the Triangular Highwire, a twist on an old favorite with four performers on three 25-foot highwires connected in a triangular formation. There also will be an Extreme Box Jump Trampoline that sends bikes flying into the air in a mix of BMX, trail bikes and unicycles. A Double Wheel of Destiny features four open-sided wheels rotating independently with acrobats moving back and forth up to 30 feet off the ground. Another act is the Criss-Cross Flying Trapeze, which will provide audiences with a 360-degree view of nine trapeze artists above the arena.

Feld is bringing back Ringling Bros. six years after it ended the touring three-ring circus in 2017, following growing protests from animal-rights groups over the use of captive animals in the circus. That move marked what appears to be a pause in the 146-year history of the traveling show.

Company executives first indicated plans to relaunch Ringling Bros in the fall of 2021. The new production is not expected to feature animal acts.

Ringling Bros. relocated its winter quarters from Baraboo, Wisconsin in 1927 to Sarasota, where John Ringling and his wife, Mabel, established a home and art museum. In 1951, Cecil B. DeMille filmed part of his Academy Award-winning movie “The Greatest Show on Earth” in Sarasota, at the former circus grounds and in a parade along Main Street. In 1960, the winter quarters moved to Venice where it remained until 1992, when deteriorating train tracks made travel there impossible. For years until it shut down, Ringling Bros. held its winter quarters for two traveling units at the Florida Fairgrounds in Tampa.

Performances in Tampa at Amalie Arena will be at 7 p.m. Jan. 5, 11 a.m., 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. Jan. 6 and 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. Jan. 7. Tickets start at $20 and go on sale at 10 a.m. March 21. For more information on the production: ringling.com

This article originally appeared on Sarasota Herald-Tribune: Feld Entertainment brings back Ringling Bros. shows for new generation