Celebrate 200 years of circus adventure
Kid Reporter Cecilia Gault with Johnathan Lee Iverson the youngest circus Ringmaster in history. He is also the first New Yorker and the first African American Ringmaster for Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. (Photo courtesy Cecilia Gault)
As the 200th birthday of Phineas Taylor Barnum approached, circus producers Alana and Nicole Feld asked themselves: What would P.T. do?
"We knew we wanted to put together a show that was so big, so spectacular that Barnum himself would be proud of it," Alana told the Scholastic Kids Press Corps recently. "We challenged our entire team to think, what would Barnum do and that's where we came up with the name of the show, Barnum's FUNundrum."
P.T. Barnum founded the circus that became Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey's Greatest Show on Earth 140 years ago. As the world's best-known producer, he was the first circus owner to move his entire show from place to place by train. He was also the first to purchase his own train. It is fitting then that Barnum's FUNundrum is an imaginary train ride for the audience as they "travel" the world to see the greatest circus talents on Earth.
From gravity-challenged gymnasts to death-defying motorcyclists and pretzel-like body benders, Barnum's FUNundrum is a stupendous show. Acts also include a strongman who can lift more than a half ton of weight, a fire-breathing man (don't try this at home), snake charmers, and trapeze artists.
At the intermission of the Manhattan premiere, 5-year-old Terrence Cooper said he was mesmerized by the white tigers. He was eager for more animals in the second half.
"Do you think they will bring out dinosaurs?" he asked his mom.
What he got was just as spectacular: the largest elephant act in North America.
"We have the greatest and largest elephant production number ever," said Nicole Feld. "It's really a big spectacle. The elephants always get the biggest [audience] reaction."
And the elephants are what both Alana and Nicole said they think Barnum would have loved the most about this latest Greatest Show on Earth.
"P.T. Barnum was always about the audience and the audience reaction," Nicole continued. "Everything that we do is about audiences of today and what can we do to make the next generation enjoy the next Greatest Show on Earth so that this great institution can continue for years to come."
And while Barnum's FUNundum performs around the country, the Felds are already working on the next version.
"Every year it's about showing people things they've never seen before," Alana said. "We want families and children to leave and say, I can't believe I just saw this amazing feat. As audiences change and they want different things, we are going to change our show to make sure we entertain people forever."
For more information about Barnum's FUNundrum, check out the company's website.
You can also see a video of the interview Kid Reporter Danielle Azzolina's interview on the circus train with Alana and Nicole Feld.
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