From haywire clowns to high-wire daredevils, the 124th edition of "the Greatest Show on Earth" runs the entertainment gamut. Producer Kenneth Feld (with help from former Utahn, talent scout Tim Holst) and his cast and crew of nearly 250 performers, roustabouts and technicians have a production with something for "children of all ages."
The centerpieces of the 1994 "blue unit" show are those pachyderm moppets - Romeo and Juliette, who've already learned how to entwine their little trunks and step up onto pint-sized pedestals.While the program lists 21 acts, the numbers are deceiving. Frequently, one "act" can involve three completely different troupes all performing at the same time in (or high above) the trio of rings.
Think of it as a multiplex cinema, constantly unreeling dozens of movies, starting with The Big Parade of colorfully costumed entertainers and closing with a giant Boom! (when human cannonball Jon Weiss catapults at 65-mph out of a truck-sized firearm).
While the big finale is billed as double-barreled, I was told that Weiss' partner, James Halliday, was sidelined by an injury several weeks ago. Publicist Jack Hart said he had asked why they didn't just pinch-hit with a substitute human projectile, but he was told "it's hard to find men of that caliber."
Weiss showed his funnier side in a great ladder-balancing routine.
From the Caged Fury of Graham Thomas Chipperfield's snarling, but playful lions, to The Horsemasters - ranging from a ringful of high speed Cossack riders, the astounding Boulibekovs, to Chepiakova & Kim and their unique mix of horses and Siberian brown bears, there were animal acts aplenty, including an Elephant Walk by the big herd of pachyderms. Chipperfield also did some amazing teeterboard routines with his three elephants.
For canine lovers, there were The Shaggy Dog and three rings packed with everything from Raul Astillita's hilarious Old English sheep dogs to Svetlana's canines to Johnny Peers' wonderful muts (all rescued from various dog pounds).
Yet another film, Swing High, Swing Low, came to mind during the many gymnastic and high-wire acts, such as the amazing Poliakovs, Kraftsovs and Tereshenkos, three ensembles of synchronized gymnasts on freestanding bars, and the high-flying Karima and Panteleenko troupes and daredevil solo French aerialist Jean-Christophe Fournier. There was also the graceful artistry of the Muratovs and two ensembles of Western Web Aerialists.
And, naturally, there was Trapeze, with Mexico's Flying Vargas and Cuba's The Flying Alvarez performing midair spins on opposite ends of the arena. The highlights of this act were the successful, simultaneous "triples" by both Martin Alvarez and 15-year-old Miguel Vargas.
For Tightrope, circus fans delighted in the Mednikovs, deftly balancing on tiny strands of cable 36 feet above the arena floor.
If you remember The Big Trees, the circus version filled all three rings with an ensemble of brawny Chinese acrobats, balancing 66-foot bamboo poles on their palms, chins and thumbs.
The world's funniest collection of clowns spent the night Living It Up in one madcap routine after another, in everything from a Spike Jones sendup to the traditional jammed-in-a-jalopy act.
Kudos, too, to David Killinger's excellent circus band and those unsung heros, the busy roustabouts, whose quick placement and removal of props and riggings is as well choreographed as any of the spotlighted routines.