A variety of performers enter the arena during the premier of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey’s presentation of Out of This World at Selland Arena Thursday evening. (Wendy Alexander)
I don’t often visit Fresno, and my inexperience there showed Friday as I spent an extra half hour trying to find my way to Selland Arena and its parking without help from my GPS device.
I missed a pre-show and interview, and barely arrived to be seated for the main event. So I felt quite grumpy as I settled in. Yet I smiled at sights on and above the icy arena floor. Stunt prowess, exotic beasts, grace and humor pushed aside othver thoughts for a while.
The show “Out of this World” by Ringling Bros. And Barnum & Bailey is only the second circus performance I’ve ever seen in person. My first was a barely remembered small tent presentation in Madera itself, most likely at the Madera District Fairgrounds. So I have little to compare with.
One difference between a live show and glimpses via media is how overwhelmed one’s senses can be. There can be so much happening at the same time that you just have to resign yourself to focusing on what draws your eye, knowing that you can’t watch it all.
I faced this most during the second main animal show of the circus’ tale. Llamas, donkeys, kangaroos, and more performed in a center ring while dogs and two huge pigs did so outside it. My eyes chose the dogs and pigs most of the time, but my brain kept nagging me with its curiosity about the doings of the others.
Clearly a live circus can be a multi-course buffet that aims to be all your eyes can eat. “Out of this World” excels as such, though there are main events presented without distraction, such as trapeze artists, a lion tamer, unicycle basketball players, and motorcycle stunt riders.
A live show also has its potential for missteps and falls, which certainly can add or release tension in a way that films doctored by special effects cannot. When a majestically maned lion became feisty during one act, a mother sitting beside me became worried. “I don’t want to see a man get mauled,” she said to her family. All went well and perhaps the cat’s spunk was even intended. Either way, it produced a dramatic tension few media replicate.
The space age story of Starseeker’s galactic circus definitely helped tie the various acts together loosely, and may help children stay attentive. It’s not Star Wars or Star Trek, but it pleases.
Fittingly for a science fiction theme, smartphones seemed embraced at the show. The circus released an iPhone app a week before with photo filters and sharing, games, trivia, and exclusive content and deals. It definitely saw use Thursday, feeding into a spaceship screen that showed online Twitter comments and photos shared about the Fresno show during its intermission. Featured attendees probably enjoyed seeing their faces or comments displayed for all.
Quite a few in the audience captured smartphone photographs or videos of the show without complaint from the circus handlers. But leave any professional cameras at home. Their use won’t be welcome after the opening act finishes.
So how would I sum up my first major live circus show? Since I’ve seen so few, I have no standing to call it the “greatest,” but I would dare to call it great. My favorite performers would be the comical athletes we call clowns and who amazed and impressed me with their stunts and style. The ice skating, the acrobats, and the animal shows were also highlights. If you go, prepare to smile.
Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey presents “Out of this World” will be at Selland Arena, 700 M St., at 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Tickets range from a $13 balcony seat to $65 for the front row.