On Friday night, my family and I entered the Norfolk Scope Arena to see Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Presents Circus XTREME, their final farewell.
For over 145 years, the circus has entertained millions of people. My first time to see this circus was only three years ago, and Friday night was my last. Earlier in the year, Kenneth Feld, chairman and CEO of Feld Entertainment, announced that this circus would hold its final performance in May of 2017. For Hampton Roads, the last shows will be March 29th through April 2nd at the Hampton Coliseum, and it is not to be missed.
As we entered the Scope on Friday night, our kids, 9 and 11, checked out the dress-up area and tattoo station, grabbed their clown noses, and watched short performances right in front of them. We giggled with clowns, met a beautiful black horse, and investigated a small, kid-friendly tight-rope. As it was time for the show to begin, we all took our seats in preparation to be dazzled. And dazzled we were.
The night we attended, we saw the first female ring leader in their history (Kristin Michelle Wilson) challenge stars Alex and Irena to search the world for talent. In that search, we saw a human pyramid holding up over 900 pounds, talented (and gasp worthy) tight-rope walkers, daredevils on bikes, crazy coordination in the concrete jungle, dazzling acrobatics, a woman shot from a cannon at around 66 miles per hour, and so much more. If the extreme talent wasn’t enough, we also thoroughly enjoyed the silliness of the many clowns throughout the show. The show was so perfect as a farewell, our 11-year-old cried. A lot. When we asked him why he was crying, he said it was because this was the last time he’d see this circus, and that he didn’t get to say goodbye to his favorite clown. He later said that the clowns would be the thing he missed most. And to clarify, if any of you gained a fear of clowns thanks to movies like IT or Killer Clowns from Outer Space like I did as a child, let me assure you: these clowns are all silliness and fun. I have enjoyed them each of the three years we’ve seen this circus.
At the end of the show, I asked my family what they enjoyed most about the show that night, and also what they would miss the most about Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey. Our 11-year old said, not surprisingly, the clowns were the best of the evening. Our 9-year old said his favorite part of the night was “the whole thing.” My husband said that the tigers were a great part of the show and that the clowns were especially good this time. For me, the highlight of the evening was the tight-rope walkers. Although my anxiety spikes while I watch them, I was amazed at their ability to do what they do. I’ve fallen over in enough yoga classes to appreciate the exceptional balance they must have. The focus and teamwork is amazing for me to watch as they balance on top of each other and even jump on the wire. Overall, I will miss the acrobats most. Perhaps it is an old-time nostalgia of women and men flying through the air that gets me, maybe it is the beauty of the movement, but this air ballet is always one of my favorite parts of the show. I can only hope that each talented person in this show finds a new place to showcase their art once the show ends.
If you haven’t made it to the farewell tour, grab your tickets now. It will be a memory that won’t be forgotten, and you won’t have the opportunity again. I’m so glad that my childhood dream of seeing a “real circus” (that wasn’t realized until I was well into my thirties) became a special memory for our boys. We will miss the thrills and chills, but most of all, we will miss the happiness the Greatest Show on Earth brought to each one of us.
See show times and purchase tickets to the Hampton Coliseum show here.
Find out more about the show and about Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey here.