The 140th edition of The Greatest Show on Earth, Barnum’s Funundrum celebrates the 200th anniversary of P.T. Barnum’s birth, and the circus has pulled out all the stops – with everything from pirates to superheroes and mermaids to tigers – living up to the reputation of one of the greatest showmen America has ever known.
From the colorful opening number “All Aboard,” Barnum’s Funundrum was a high-paced evening of engaging entertainment, eliciting “oohs” and “aahs” as the audience watched the highly trained performers attempt death defying stunts no ordinary man would be capable of. Gasps could be heard as a man on one long stilt was launched somersaulting into the air, and sighs of relief were heard as he landed safely on his feet – or rather, one stilt.
Barnum’s Funundrum also marks the return of Jonathan Lee Iverson, the first African American ringmaster, after a five year hiatus. Iverson's booming operatic voice and enthusiastic showmanship conjured an atmosphere of excitement and wonder, captivating the audience and enhancing the show's many spectacles.
Barnum's Funundrum is produced by sisters Nicole and Alana Feld of Feld Entertainment, the producers of Disney on Ice. The third generation of Felds, and the first two women to produce the show, they have gathered some of the best talent from around the world, creating a show that lives up to its billing as the Greatest Show on Earth.
A new attraction at the circus this year is a pre-show animal open house. This attraction was not available opening night, however, due to cold weather and concern for the animals' well-being.
There is also an all-access pre-show held on the arena floor, hosted by animal trainer Andre McClain, “America’s favorite cowboy.” There, ticket-holders are invited to get up close and personal with the circus by trying on costumes, playing tug of war with the strongest man on earth, and watching the elephant Kelly Ann paint a picture, while learning facts about her species.
“Because people and animals are an essential part of everything we do at Ringling Bros., we are committed to programs that invest in the health and well-being of families, kids and animals,” says Kenneth Feld, Chairman and CEO of Feld Entertainment. Ringling Bros. does this through two programs: CircusFit, a national youth fitness program designed to encourage children to “lead healthy, active and balanced lifestyles,” and the Center for Elephant Conservation, established to protect the endangered Asian elephant. A $5 million, 200 acre facility in Central Florida is “dedicated to the conservation, breeding and understanding of these amazing animals” as part of the program.
The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey’s Greatest Show on Earth presents Barnum's Funundrum at the St. Pete Times Forum until January 15th. For more information, visit www.ringling.com.