'Greatest Show on Earth' Takes Its Final Bow

Ringling Bros. performs last show in New York
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted May 21, 2017 4:30 PM CDT
After 146 Years, Ringling Bros. Shuts Down Circus
Ringmaster Kristen Michelle Wilson, right, hugs a member of the crew after the red unit's final performance, Sunday, May 7, 2017, in Providence, R.I.   (Julie Jacobson)

The Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus that has wowed crowds for 146 years with its "Greatest Show on Earth" is taking its final bow on Sunday. The circus' last show at the Nassau County Coliseum in Uniondale, New York, is sold out, and former circus performers will be in the audience. Ringling's parent company, Feld Entertainment, announced in January it would close the show, citing declining attendance and high operating costs. Animal rights activists had targeted the circus, saying that forcing animals to perform and transporting them around the country amounted to abuse. And in May 2016, the company removed elephants from its shows, but ticket sales continued to decline, reports the AP.

Once a mainstay of entertainment in small towns and big cities alike, Ringling had two touring circuses this season, one of which ended its run earlier this month in Providence, Rhode Island. That show was the more traditional, three-ring circus, while the one in Uniondale this weekend has a narrative storyline. Called "Out of This World," it's set in futuristic outer space, with Ringmaster Johnathan Lee Iverson narrating in his signature baritone. There are mild explosions and flashing lights—a sensory overload, but one that captivates the little ones. In the end, though, Feld executives said they knew the circus couldn't compete with iPhones, the internet, video games, and massively branded and carefully marketed characters. Their other productions—Frozen on Ice, Marvel Live, Monster Trucks, Disney on Ice—resonate better with younger generations. (More circus stories.)

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