Tricks and Treats: Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus celebrating 143rd year

2013-10-31T00:00:00Z 2013-11-05T12:52:01Z Tricks and Treats: Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus celebrating 143rd yearBy Philip Potempa, (219) 852-4327

Producer Alana Feld of Feld Entertainment, the clever brain, along with some shared imagination from her sister and co-producer Nicole Feld, said it was easy to dream up the new theme for the 2013 run of her family's latest edition of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus.

"Built To Amaze!" is the theme for this tour, which opens Friday for multiple performances at Allstate Arena in Rosement, Ill. until Nov. 11 and then a second round of more thrills and chills in the Windy City when it plays Chicago's United Center Nov. 20 to Dec. 1.

The Feld Family knows how to "build a circus," beginning with a foundation of tradition, since this week's visit ranks as the 143rd edition of this legendary three-ring entertainment claim-to-fame.

"My grandpa, Irvin Feld, purchased the circus in 1967and then my father Kenneth began helping him starting in 1970, which is how I also grew up watching how new circus shows are launched to always keep audiences expecting a new surprise," Alana said.

She describes this new tour, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Presents Built To Amaze!, as "an extraordinarily engineered circus experience where children of all ages find out what it takes to build The Greatest Show On Earth." As colorful circus machinery and shipping crates are revealed right before the audience's eyes, she said engineering and timing are key from the start.

"We started the planning process for this show more than a year in advance before this tour began in January," Alana said.

"But one thing that has stayed the same is the circus still welcomes all ticket-holders to the free all-access pre-show right in the middle of the circus rings on the main floor, where everyone is invited to meet the clowns, try on custom designed costumes, learn circus skills like juggling and even have the opportunity to witness and win a one of a kind masterpiece created by Asia, Ringling Bros. very own painting pachyderm."

Andre McClain, who has a fun cowboy theme, along with his horse Comanche, is the new ringmaster who is guiding the adventure, which includes a fantastic design with more than 110 of the world's best performers representing 17 countries along with 95 exotic and domestic animals in the spotlight.

In addition to the favorites like the big cats and elephants, the new show stars Alex and Irina Emelin of Russia with their 16 black and white poodles, the Tower Tumblers, a troupe of competitive aerial athletes from the Ukraine and 20-year-old "Human Canonball" Elliana Grace, who originally planned to attend Columbia College in Chicago to study sign language.

One of the most anticipated return acts to this year's circus is the antics of the fiery competition of basketball with the next generation of whirling unicyclists, the legendary King Charles Troupe, first featured in 1969 by Ringling Bros. producer Irvin Feld. The 12-member troupe dribbles, passes, shoots and weaves their way with outrageous skill and high-speed comedic antics with each player whizzing about on one wheel.

"Our last time touring with the Felds and this legendary circus was in 1996, when Kenneth brought us back as the second generation," said Kip Jones, who is the troupe leader for the King Charles Troupe and has been with the group since age 15.

"Now, we're on our third generation and happy to be working with the third generation of the Felds."

It was after the original troupe auditioned on the sidewalk outside of Madison Square Garden for Irvin Feld and impressed with success, the troupe made its debut with the circus in 1969 becoming the first all-black circus act in the history of Ringling Bros.

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