The Greatest Show on Earth has rolled into the Delta Center, bringing what is being billed as "a Barnumesque bevy of the bizarre and the unbelievable" to Utah audiences.
Interspersed with such traditional favorites as elephants, high-wire artists and colorful clowns (all graduates from the prestigious Clown College, most likely), are brief glimpses of old-time "Sideshow Sensations."It may not be quite as close-up as the old tent shows, where, for a small additional fee, you could walk through a tent (smaller than the adjoining Big Top) and see a variety of living oddities.
In this new edition of Feld Entertainment's Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, with singing ringmaster Jim Ragona at the helm, the sideshow-style acts are paraded through the arena as part of the entire production.
Depending on how much you like (or dislike) snakes, you may squirm a bit when Tong, the Prince of Pythons, gets all wrapped up in one of his slithering, 16-foot serpents.
Quite a few acts fall into the "don't try this at home" category, including Mysticlese, Master of the Mind, who treads lightly on the razor-sharp rungs of a ladder and walks over a bed of light bulbs without breaking even one . . . Vesuvius, the fire-breathing Human Volcano . . . and Nikolai, the Iron Jaw, who pulls an elephant with a cable attached to his teeth.
You can compare the World's Tallest Man (8-foot-tall Kahn) and the World's Smallest Man (Michu, who tops out at 33 inches - 7 inches shorter than P.T. Barnum's discovery, the legendary Gen. Tom Thumb).
Exotic action fills the arena as well, including the pulsating Gabonese Acrobatic Troupe from Equatorial Africa; the thundering Kambarov Riders, a band of Cossack horsemen (and women); the hilarious Torosiants, a multi-ethnic troupe that plays basketball . . . on a trampoline, and the flowing movements of Bulgaria's acclaimed Rhythmic Gymnasts.
For heart-stopping, edge-of-your-seat danger, you can feel the tension and suspense mount as the legendary Quiros cavort through their risky high-wire routines. If there is a single "star" act in the show, this would be it. The only net they have is a small one - to catch one of their props.
Another circus classic is the Tur, a trapeze troupe from Moscow, whirling and flying through the air with the greatest of ease. Vitaliy Korolov soars an astonishing 70 feet. (He missed on the first attempt, but succeeded on the second.)
Animal lovers are bound to be entertained by Juan Raul Rodrigues and his Lloyd's Old English Sheepdogs and Lubov and Nikolai Polonik's performing poodles, plus Daniel Raffo and his cageful of Bengal and Siberian tigers and the circus' longtime favorites, the parading pachyderns. Sure, they're big and smelly, but it wouldn't be a circus without them.
Baby elephants Benjamin and Shirley are cute as bugs' ears - really big bugs' ears.
Missing on opening night was Marina, "the lady in the cube." When I caught the show in Oakland recently, she contorted herself into a tiny see-through cube. She has left the show. Maybe she felt boxed in. After all, her glass ceiling is only 14 inches high.
Also missing in action was Vesta Gueschkova, formerly the mysterious Arianna, the Human Arrow. Now she's one-half of the double-barreled "human cannonball" finale. Only Mike Myers was suited up for the 65-mile-per-hour shot, but both barrels should be cocked and ready for the remainder of the run.