Even with all the magic and all the fun, the thing I remember most from my childhood trips to the circus is my traditional circus cup filled with delicious flavored ice. So it's only natural that after a very long hiatus from Ringling Bros., I couldn't help but buy one of those overpriced, albeit creatively original, souvenir icee cups Wednesday night at Oracle Arena in Oakland. And, along with a souvenir hat and free clown nose, I toted my elephant-shaped cup into the arena for an evening of pure entertainment.
Of course, Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey are no Cirque du Soleil. I've seen a few Cirque shows for comparison – all mind-blowing and captivating – but Cirque and Ringling are completely different animals – quite literally, since Cirque has made a name for itself as a high-end circus without animals. On the other hand, "the greatest show on earth," which makes stops in San Jose and Stockton in the coming weeks, comes with all the traditional circus acts: elephants, horses, lions, tigers, motorcycles, trapeze artists and more. And while there's certainly an element of show and trickery in many of these acts, there's also an element of fun missing in Cirque and an element of grandiosity that smaller traveling circuses lack.
Plus, all in all, Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey know how to bring out the kid in all of us. My two friends I brought with me had little experience with the circus and, after what seemed to them like a brand new experience, I think them likely to run away with the circus in the near future.
The blue "Dragons" tour doesn't fail to impress. If anything, it leaves audiences wanting more, especially after a short second act. Circus workers give children ample opportunity to participate (although the expensive "celebrity" seats don't seem much worth the money considering how little of the show they actually get to be in). The more daring acts have audience members on The Edge of their seats, and the animal acts are entertaining (despite a lack of danger and thrill). And although the clown acts are few and sometimes irrelevant to the "dragons" theme, they are adorable to watch.
The "Dragons" theme has various acts associated with different characteristics like heart and courage. If the acts and audiences prove their valor, they may just attract a "real" dragon to the arena. The new theme also warrants new "Kung Fu" tricks from "Shaolin monks." Our handsomely dressed ringmaster is there throughout to host the event. His diction is not always clear, but he has the perfect aura of authority and excitement.
And it is an exciting experience. Run away with the circus. Put on your clown nose. And have a good time. That's what Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey are for.
Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey Circus "Dragons"
Through August 12 at Oracle Arena in Oakland
August 15-19 at HP Pavillion in San Jose
September 6-9 at Power Balance Pavillion in Sacramento
September 13-16 at Stockton Arena