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Go to the Circus

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, Sunday, October 20, appearing at the Boston Garden through Sunday, October 27. Ticket prices: $15.00 (ringside), $9.50, $8.50, and $6.50.

Ladies and gentleman ... children of all ages, the circus has come to town and you should go. The Greatest Show on Earth has once again lived up to its billing. Elephants and show girls in glimmering costumes, acrobats, and clowns provide a colorful backdrop to the death-defying feats of the aerial artists.

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the first performance of the Ringling Bros. Circus. To celebrate the occasion, stunningly attired performers of the "blue troop" reenacted highlights of circus history. Clowns carrying colorful banners depicted the 1919 marriage of the original Ringling Bros. Circus and the Barnum and Bailey Circus. Mishu, the world's smallest man -- only 33 inches from head to toe and 22 pounds -- delightfully portrayed circus legend General Tom Thumb.

Bouncing, frolicking clowns entertained the audience with their comical hijinks throughout the show. Prior to ringmaster Jim Ragona's opening of the show, individual clowns displayed their talents with musical acts, tumbling, and the customary practical jokes. Frequent, well-choreographed clown acts provided an enjoyable transition between the many acts.

Early in the show came three rings of continuous teeterboard action. Center ring featured the Rodogel Troop, whose star performer did a full flip on high wooden stilts. Meanwhile, in ring three, The Mosoianus successfully completed a spring jump to a towering six person height.

Following intermission, trapeze artist Miguel Vasquez, the only human to conquer the quadruple somersault, once again successfully completed his "impossible" feat, to the awe of those watching. His Mexican family overshadowed the faltering Flying Ramons, who failed at their attempt at a triple somersault.

Special to the blue troop were two contortionists -- Rudolph Delmonte and Nellie Ivanov. Delmonte, the better of the pair, was remarkable. His athletic performance convinced the audience that his body was made of rubber. For his finale, he performed repeated pushups, while balanced in a handstand with his legs tucked under his armpits.

Animal acts were a major focus of this year's show. Camels, dogs, bears, zebras and, of course, the savage tigers were among the many trained beasts. The absence of superstar Gunther Gebel-Williams, currently on tour with the sister red troop, was noticed. The caged animal show, performed by Wade Burke in his Ringling Brothers and Barnum Bailey debut, was not impressive. Burke seemed unable to fully control the 15 somewhat sluggish tigers in his act. The expected mixture of breeds of jungle animals -- a highlight of earlier shows -- did not materialize.

The other animal acts demostrated the skills of the trainers. As the elephants were making their debut, a young girl exclaimed, "Look mom, there are tons of elephants." Have you ever seen less than "tons" of elephants? In all seriousness, though, the elephant acts were spectacular. Trainer Axel Gautier led the 250,000 pounds of pachyderms through numerous dance numbers as if they were Las Vegas showgirls. Well, almost.

The circus ended with a big bang -- quite literally, as Captain Christopher was shot from a cannon the full length of the arena. The performers gathered for one final time to pay their farewells, wishing the audience that all its days be circus days.

The circus -- supposedly for children -- is really an excuse for adults to be infantile for two-and-a-half hours.

Take an escape back to the carefree days of childhood: Go to the circus.

Steven Wheatman->

and Ellen L. Spero->