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March 21, 2023

Ringling Bros. circus plans rebirth with 'Greatest Show on Earth' tour

The reimagined act, which does not include animal performers, will stop at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia for seven shows next February

Entertainment Circus
ringling bros circus Provided Image/Feld Entertainment

The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus is making a comeback with its reimagined 'The Greatest Show on Earth,' which will stop in Philadelphia next year.

Years after Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey performers took their alleged final bows, the circus will soon be coming back to town with some major changes.

Feld Entertainment, the company behind Ringling Bros., has nixed its animal performers and reimagined its circus act as a brand new show titled "The Greatest Show on Earth." The family-friendly spectacle will embark on a North American tour starting this year, with seven performances at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia slated for next February.

While the controversial lion, tiger and elephant acts once synonymous with the circus will be missing, Feld has promised that its new show will include musical performances, modern comedy and acts on highwire, trapeze and bicycles on a multi-platform, 360-degree stage.

To redefine Ringling for today’s audiences, we started with a blank slate and evolved all aspects from production to performance to meet the needs of modern families, ultimately creating a massive playground that delivers an incredible and unique performance that can only be called The Greatest Show On Earth,” said Kenneth Feld, chair and CEO of Feld Entertainment.

circus ringling bros renderingsProvided Image/Feld Entertainment

Renderings of “The Greatest Show On Earth” show the Triangular Highwire, Double Wheel and Criss-Cross Flying Trapeze that will be part of the performances.

Highlights of the reborn show include a triangular highwire, criss-cross flying trapeze, extreme box jump trampoline and a physical comedy troupe, plus new technology that allows enhanced lighting and spatial sound systems.

The 75 performers in the show's cast — hailing from more than 18 countries — were discovered through a global talent search. The cast will represent their unique cultural backgrounds and stories through circus arts performances as well as costumes.

"The Greatest Show on Earth" will kick off its North American tour in September, with seven performances at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia scheduled from Feb. 16 through Feb. 19, 2024.

Feld Entertainment, which operates other family-friendly shows like Disney on Ice, bought the circus company in 1967. The reimagined show comes about six years after Feld shut down Ringling Bros. circus in 2017 after over 140 years in business, due to a decline in ticket sales that made the business unsustainable.

While Feld did not cite backlash from animal activists as a reason for closing down, it had been facing heat for some time due to its use of wild and exotic animals like elephants, lions and tigers. Ringling Bros. promised to remove elephants from its shows by 2018, and it officially retired them in 2016.

Parts of the U.S. have made moves to end wild animal circus performances. New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy signed “Nosey’s Law” in 2018, banning the use of wild and exotic animals, such as elephants, in traveling animal acts like circuses and carnivals. While Pennsylvania considered similar statewide action, and there is a recently-reintroduced Pa. House bill to that effect, so far bans have only passed in cities like Pittsburgh, Sharpsburg and Whitemarsh Township.

Tickets for "The Greatest Show on Earth" at Wells Fargo Center are on sale now online.

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