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It’s almost spring. Easter and the Passover are fast approaching. You know what that means, right? It means the circus has roared into town on its mile-long train. The 143rd edition of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey's “The Greatest Show on Earth,” Built to Amaze!, is encamped at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center March 20 through April 1. One thing is for certain: it’s not your Mom and Dad’s circus. Producers Alana and Nicole Feld have put together a super-sized, high-energy show -- the biggest in Ringling history. It’s spine-tingling, with edge-of-the-seat thrills, amazing acrobats and gymnasts, exotic animals, music, dancing, and tons of laughter.
Sadly, Ringling Bros.’ extravaganza will no longer play Madison Square Garden due to the extensive renovations there to install more high-end food and drink venues for sports fans. So Built to Amaze! is making its debut at the spanking new Brooklyn arena. It’s a new setting for the circus and the beginning of an annual tradition for Barclays.
In Built to Amaze!, audiences experience how the circus comes together. Singing cowboy ringmaster Andre McClain says, “It’s not your typical day at work! The shipping crates have arrived and we unload a knock-out show. As the momentum builds, so does the anticipation. The amazement has no bounds. Anything can happen. There are daredevil aerialists in feats of derring-do that keep hearts pounding; Asian elephants, ferocious tigers, and elegant stallions; showgirls; and clown high jinks.
Co-producer Alana Feld says, “Thanks to our father [Kenneth Feld] and grandfather [Irving Feld], we grew up with so many circus memories. Now, we get to create memories that’ll rekindle the magic of circus for young and old.”
Alana and Nicole Feld, producers
“This year’s show explores a child’s curiosity of how things around us work,” explains co-producer Nicole Feld, “by showcasing outstanding performers from around the world. More than any other previous show, Built to Amaze! is a blast of adrenalin as our artists duke it out – girls vs. guys – and audiences cheer on their favorites! It’s pure circus spectacle, stunt show, rock show, with lots of Broadway elements.”
The youthful producers grew up surrounded by sawdust, spending their childhood playing with clowns, trying on glittering costumes, “petting elephants and giraffes.”
“Ringling’s been around 143 years,” states Nicole, “because it changed with the times. Our family wants to insure this American institution continues as a living legacy. Built to Amaze! takes live entertainment to a new level. We asked, ‘What would P.T. Barnum do?’ We’ve blown it out in a way to really excite audiences so they’ll ask, ‘How’d they do that?’” The result is over the top, with 110 performers from 17 nations on six continents.
Russian comics Alex and Iriana
To help with this monumental task, the producers handpicked Rye Mullis, the young former actor and director Disney and Ringling shows to helm the production; and young choreographer Kevin Wilson, whose work has been seen in numerous films and on America’s Got Talent, So You Think You Can Dance, and the Nickelodeon Awards.
One hour before showtime, ticketholders are invited to the All-Access Pre-Show to meet the artists, try on costumes, juggle with clowns, and root as the Ringling Girls and Barnum Boys engage in a girl power vs. boy power tug-of-war. Don’t miss “Circus Picasso,” Asia the elephant, painting another masterpiece and the chance to enter the drawing to take it home.
Built to Amaze! introduces Russia’s nine-time international award-winning Alex and Irina, who create comic magic and present 16 rambunctious poodles. Show highlights include the Ukraine’s Tower Tumblers, 10 competitive aerial athletes launching from trampolines and defying gravity soaring through a three-story tower. New York’s legendary and spirited King Charles Basketball Troupe, long a Ringling mainstay, returns center stage with a new generation of unicyclists dribbling and making passes and hoop shots.
Chile’s Tabayara is a man who, indeed, speaks to animals! He presents elephants, horses and is fearless inside a cage of 13 growling big cats, including white tigers who, at his "Azúcar!" ("sweet as sugar") commands, stand on their hind legs. The Danguir Family form pyramids and execute intricate jumps “on a pencil-thin” high wire. Flavia Costa joins four male counterparts defying gravity on the 40’ high-speed “Wheel of Steel.” Then “human cannon ball” Elliana Grace is barrel-shot 100’ across the arena “at a G-force of 7, the same felt by Apollo 16 on reentry into Earth’s atmosphere.”
The design team includes theater veteran Greg Poplyk, costumes; James Youman, overall production; and Michael Picton, composer, original music, working with Emmy-nominated lyricist Michael Himelstein.
For more information on RBBB’s Built to Amaze! at the Barclays Center – show times, ticket purchase details, circus trivia, visit www.ringling.com.
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