As the Ringling Bros.’ star attractions take their last bow, the circus embraces a wave of changes—including ice.
Last fall, the creative team at Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus put on a little show in Palmetto, Florida. Inside the cavernous headquarters of Feld Entertainment, the third-largest building in the state (surpassed by only NASA and Amazon), the directors, producers, and choreographers used a miniature paper model of the circus complete with tiny cutouts for each performer and each animal to present this summer’s touring production to company executives.
Although there are the familiar acrobats, clowns, and lions, the show, called “Out of This World,” is a different beast. Instead of simply showcasing various acts, this circus tells a single story, a planet-hopping adventure in outer space—on ice.
“It’s not Disney On Ice,” says Alana Feld, 35, who oversees the circus and would know. She’s an executive vice president and producer at Feld Entertainment, which also produces Disney On Ice. “It’s the circus on ice.”
Her father, CEO Kenneth Feld, who’s overseen or contributed to some 60 circus productions over the decades, watched what’s known as “the white model” presentation and thought he’d never seen anything like it. In fact, the show involves a slew of new elements, from elaborate floor projections to high-tech lighting to its first app that together represent the circus’s strategy for competing in the digital age. “These are the most changes I would say of anything we’ve done,” he tells me later.
The show’s biggest precedent, however, is the one thing what’s missing for the first time in an illustrious history dating back to Reconstruction: elephants.
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