Floridians have enjoyed a first look at The Greatest Show on Earth ever since Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey moved to Sarasota in 1927.
On Wednesday, Ringling Bros. premieres “Fully Charged” at the St. Pete Times Forum. Following its Jan. 5-9 run, the 141st edition of the circus tours the country via a mile-long train. Rehearsals began the day after Thanksgiving at winter quarters, which relocated to Tampa’s Florida State Fairgrounds in 1993 after spending 75 years in Sarasota County. Ringling Bros. offered local media a sneak peek of the production last month inside the fairgrounds’ Expo Hall.
Dancers delighted with smartly choreographed steps.
Aerialists and acrobats daringly flew through the air.
A strongman duo spun multiple telephone poles adorned with several performers.
A well-trained army of Asian elephants marched majestically.
Clowns clowned around.
The event also served as the formal introduction of Brian Scott, the third youngest and only 36th ringmaster in the 141-year history of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey.
“I’m just amazed at the immense amount of talent I see around me,” the 24-year-old told the Herald. “These people are the best at what they do. It’s very inspiring to work with them.”
After earning a bachelor’s degree in musical theater from the University of Northern Colorado, Scott moved to the Big Apple to make it on Broadway. A friend of his alerted him to the ringmaster auditions taking place in New York. Having never seen the circus as a child growing up in San Jose, Calif., Scott researched Ringling Bros. before trying out for one of the circus’ most high-profile positions.
He auditioned in front of producers, Nicole Feld and Alana Feld, as well as the show’s director of talent, David Kiser. Scott sang “It Depends on What You Pay” from the famed off-Broadway musical “The Fantasticks” and a Ringling Bros. opening number. The creative team then peppered him with questions.
“They wanted to know if I was comfortable around kids and animals,” Scott said. “And if I was afraid of heights.”
The ringmaster smiled and glanced over at the tall platform on which he enters while the largest land animals on earth lined up nearby.
“The awe doesn’t subside around the elephants,” Scott said. “It’s a blessing to be in their presence and never gets old.”
“Fully Charged” features animal trainer Tabayara leading the four-ton beasts in what Ringling Bros. has dubbed “a symphony of dance.” The show also includes the Fernandez Brothers performing stunts 30-feet in the air inside the moving wheels of the Twin Turbines of Steel. The Human Fuse, Brian Miser, will shoot himself across the arena with his self-made human crossbow. He travels 80 feet at 65 miles per hour, according to publicity material.
“We’re constantly on a quest for talent,” said Nicole Feld.
The Feld family, whose Feld Entertainment has an office in Palmetto, purchased Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey in 1967. Kenneth Feld joined the family business several years later and oversaw Ringling Bros. until 2009, when daughters Nicole and Alana, age 30, became the first women producers in the history of The Greatest Show on Earth
“He’s a proud dad,” Alana said. “And a proud CEO.”
Wade Tatangelo, features writer/columnist, can be reached at 941-745-7057. Visit his blog, Buzz Worthy, at bradenton.com/blogs.