Looking for more immersive ways to connect with the audience, “The Greatest Show on Earth” will return in 2023.
Forget a dozen clowns stuffing themselves into a Volkswagen Beetle, peanut shells on the ground and jugglers and acrobatics vying for oohs, aahs and gasps from the crowd — a group famously known as “ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, children of all ages.”
The new and improved greatest show on earth, from Palmetto, Manatee County, live production and performance giant Feld Entertainment, instead is a post-pandemic, tech-infused, multi-platform reboot of the famous Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey show. Feld, in a May 18 statement, announced what company officials call the “long-awaited” return of the iconic live show, followed by a press tour with members of the Feld family.
“This is an exciting day for our company,” Feld COO Juliette Feld Grossman says in a Zoom call with the Business Observer. “We spent a long time looking for how to better connect with today’s audiences.”
Not to say there won’t be jaw-dropping moments in the new show, scheduled to make its North American debut in 2023 under the name “The Greatest Show on Earth.” And although many things will be different with the revamped show, Feld Grossman, in saying the production will include elements of “thrills, artistry and comedy,” points out that one of the big-picture goals, the “why,” remains the same: putting smiles on people’s faces. Says Feld Grossman: “We want people to feel that sense of awe.”
One thing the audience won’t find is a circus. The word circus isn’t part of the show this time around, in branding, marketing or even the name. The original show, under the name “Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus,” ran for 146 years, through 2017. Feld Entertainment removed elephants from the show in 2016, and company officials later said a drop in ticket sales sans elephants was greater than expected, which led to the eventual shutdown.
Five years later, the show is coming back — and although the circus has left town, Feld Grossman emphasizes that there are different kinds of circus arts, and that’s what audiences could expect with the new show, from dancing to other performances.
In an always-leave-them-wanting-more move, Feld Grossman and the company are vague on details of what the new show will include. “We are creating more ways for the audience to (get close) to the performers,” Feld says. Officials, in the statement, add that “new technologies and a 360-degree experience will break down the barriers between the performers and attendees. Additionally, each show will incorporate interactive elements that engage the audience, ensuring that every performance is unique.”
In addition, the company says the revamped “Greatest Show” includes “broad consumer products and licensing program featuring toys, games, packaged goods, collectibles and more. In addition, brand extensions such as theme park attractions and touring exhibitions are currently in development.”
And wait, there’s more: To immerse fans more thoroughly into the world of Ringling, a documentary is being produced that will “take the audience backstage to meet the cast and crew and learn what it takes to be part of 'Greatest Show on Earth,'” the release states.
One of the biggest tasks and challenges now, Feld says, is to hire the talent. The production, a Feld spokesperson says, will require 75 performers and 25-30 crew members. Feld Entertainment producers and talent scouts have been all over the world to find performers, including the U.S., Argentina, Ethiopia, France and Mongolia. More than 1,000 applications and digital submissions have already been received. “The creative team is not only looking for exceptional talent,” the release states, “but also larger-than-life personalities whose stories of commitment and dedication to their craft will create powerful connections with the audience.”
“The Greatest Show On Earth” will begin rehearsals in June 2023. The U.S. tour will officially launch in September 2023, the company says, visiting more than 50 cities in North America. Tickets will go on sale April 2023.
One final change audiences will see is a new logo, where the R in Ringling combines a question mark and exclamation point. Like the show itself, Feld says, the logo is designed to create a sense of “wow, wonder and curiosity.”