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My Circus Review

Ever have somewhere you went as a kid and you just wish you could share that same magic with your kid - but the place or the event is just not so good anymore?

Dear Ringling Brothers,

I have attended your circuses since the early 70's. I still have the wonderful programs with sparkly covers and fabulous alliterations. I have great memories of the circus.

Sunday, I went to the circus at the AA Arena in Miami with my 4 year old daughter. This is her third circus. The first one was very good. Last year's was pretty bad. Surprisingly, this one was pretty bad as well. I remember the red and the blue circuits so this year I thought we'd be having a good one.

What happened to all the pomp and pageantry? It was ironic the muse for the show was Barnum when the circus seems to have strayed from all the showmanship he stood for. (And I will bet I am one of the only people in the audience who knew who Barnum was and what he did.)

I can understand fewer animals thanks to the animal rights folks but, really, the women could have been sparklier with more feathers and fun. There could have been more props to fill up the arena. Even the clowns are not so colorful. I miss the true three ring circus. The overload was awesome. I remember trying to watch all three rings and longing to go back the next year to see what I had missed.

But let's say you really needed to cut the budget, how about just doing great in one ring. You were off to a good start with the underwater act. Then it was all downhill. You never used the whole arena wisely again.

And bring in better trapeze artists and tight rope walkers. I'm fairly sure Ringling Bros has enough money to get the pick of the world. These acts had no showmanship. The girl missed the trick and she didn't even try again. The performers look like they have no love of performing. Bring back the drum roll. When I saw the circus growing up, I remember that even when the trapeze catcher was coming down, he did tricks, trying to jump back up to the bar. There is no longer the drama of seeing some amazing trick - one triple somersault? - and I am all for safety nets so it's not the nets I want gone. Bring back the tightrope walkers who carried chairs with someone in it and other showy things. The tiger guy was no Gunter Gabriel Williams. While he could control the cats, there was no charisma. No showmanship. Boring.

My daughter was actually bored! I was bored too. It's all the same acts as the other years and it felt as if whoever put the show together knew the acts were dull. The tightrope motorcycle was there for a blink. In a yer you'd think the rider would imagine a new addition to what he had done before. And, yes, we saw nothing new in the act.

Notably, the most boring part for my kid and the kid kicking my chair was the contortionist acrobats and the strong man. The Cirque du Soleil acrobats are great for Cirque but not so good for the kids. They don't get that the slow moving person who can lift another on his head is actually cool. And to be clear, if I was going to go to a circus as an adult I would choose Cirque. It's not just the acrobatics but the music, the intimacy, the story and a lot more. Ringling is not Cirque and nor should you be, nor will you be. That is a cool show but not the Greatest Show on Earth. Greatest means big, glitzy and showy! Go back to owning that.

And little ponies and llamas? They could walk in circles and jump over low bars. So not exciting. I appreciate how hard it is to train animals only because I worked with animals but the nuances are lost in a large arena. And the performers were boring! Where's the personality? The Big Apple Circus has a better horse act with those trick riders. Or bring back the Lipizzaners.

I am not even saying bring back animals as I am an animal lover. It's not the animals I miss but the grandness. More chrome motorcycles or many, many more Chinese lions. Many many more clowns who are more brightly colored with bigger props (and better props, the car was not proportioned small enough to make all the clowns who got out of it seem exciting). How about large puppets like they have at Carnival. How about a dance done while on stilts? More personalities like Bello and a ringmaster with presence (this one was so dull). Or something like that would be great. If you're going to be a small circus how about you play smaller venues. Take the lesson that Cirque doesn't play the arena.

And the build up to the baby elephant was good but the payoff, so lame. My daughter had already seen him in the pre-show enclosure. And she's seen a baby elephant at Disney and at the zoo. Baby elephants are not the future of your show. How about another unicorn goat. At least that was unusual and weird.

I am all for your elephant conservatory so kudos for that, but it's not a show.

More sparkles and feathers please!!! If you're tight on money don't you have some great costume archive you can borrow from?

And I am going to have to add a rant about the prices of concessions. $12 for cotton candy? You're kidding me. I would have paid $6. Wouldn't you be happy with the $5.95 profit? I did buy her an icy and we shared it. I would have loved a diet coke of my own but for $5? No way. $3, yes. You would have made less profit on items but sold more stuff to us. You would have made a little less money but you would also have had much happier patrons. My daughter was so wanting a cotton candy. I had to make her choose which messed up the experience there, but a mom has her limits. While I have the money I also need to teach her the value of a dollar and if we come to the circus again once she really understands money, I will not buy anything. If I did buy a $12 icy for her, it will be a terrible lesson on the value of money.

Ringling Bros. circus, if you want to be around another century you really need to pick it up. You are making it impossible for me to instill a love the circus in my child.


Aimee Heller

Miami Beach, FL

P.S. I sent Ringling Bros a version of this letter as well.