Thursday, July 9, 2009

The circus comes to town, and it's magical

The magic words at last night's Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus opener weren't the usual hocus-pocus. There wasn't even an abracadabra in shouting distance.

It was Zing, Zang, Zoom all the way, and, man, did it captivate my daughter. And yes, me too.

I haven't been to the circus in *cough* decades *cough*, and have since become a little jaded. (Or maybe that's just because I watched HBO's Carnivale.) So I was eager to see what CC would think of her first trip to that traveling childhood attraction.

During the pre-show at Staples Center, which started an hour before the main event, we got to walk around the floor and get an up-close glimpse of what it's like to be a tightrope walker, an aerialist and one of those colorful, crazy clowns. There was even a Technicolor motorcycle that CC tried to climb on and ride out of town. (I had to judiciously pull her back under the velvet rope.)

For CC, this seemed to be a crowded but unintimidating play land that she's come to navigate effortlessly. (That's a whole other blog entry -- how CC is becoming a kids' event veteran.)

But once we got to our seats, and the lights came up, she was dazzled. Nonstop. But, seriously, how can you argue with ponies and zebras and elephants and clowns, and more elephants (CC loved them!) and the newest addition to the circus: Magic.

As I wrote in an earlier post, Ringling Bros. has re-imagined the circus this time out to include some sleight of hand on a massive 360-degree scale. Alex Ramon, our energetic 24-year-old Zingmaster, oversaw such tricks as making an elephant disappear and turning the night's pseudo-villain Mr. Gravity, into a tiger.

Acrobats twisted, swung and flipped from all sorts of moving objects, and a couple of daring artists balanced on spinning wheels, which seemed to be a mile above the audience.

When two women were shot out of twin canons across the stadium, I thought my heart would stop.

After intermission, I noticed that nets had gone up all around the floor's perimeter and a mechanical device descended from the rafters revealing a circular chain-link fence. This was actually the first time I had felt any sense of real terror at an animal show.

Maybe it's because we're living in a post-Sigfried & Roy world. I mean, when did I think a tiger could really maul you in the safety of an urban convention center, much less the intoxicated Sin City? Don't they go out for drinks after the show, too?

But this time, with my 2-year-old in tow, I was kinda digging on all the safety precautions.

The show concluded with another parade of CC's fave elephants, and it was a little hard to leave. The circus hasn't connected with me in a long time, and I was happy that it didn't disappoint.

"Did you have fun tonight?" I asked CC on the way out.

"YEAH!!!" she yelled, eyes gleaming.

And with her head resting on my shoulder, looking back at the dark floor that was shutting down for the night, she said, "Bye-bye, Circus."

Truly magical.

Zing Zang Zoom
Staples Center: July 8-12
Honda Center, Anaheim: July 15-26
Citizens Business Bank Arena, Ontario: July 29-Aug. 2
Tickets $12-$90
For more information or to purchase tickets visit

A four-pack of tickets are $44 when you enter the code "MOM" on or when you purchase tickets at arena box offices.
* The code must be entered in the "MC Promotion Box," and you must purchase at least four tickets for the price to be valid. Each additional ticket purchased is still priced at $11.
* Not valid on circus celebrity, front row or VIP seats, and facility fees still apply.

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