Friday, March 02, 2001

Not quite greatest show on Earth

By Chris Klein
Enquirer contributor

        “The Greatest Show on Earth” doesn't quite live up to its name this time around.

        The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus performed Wednesday evening at the Firstar Center lacked the overall pizazz and breathtaking excitement of previous shows.

        Billed as the star act, Sara was unremarkable (albeit brave) as tamer for eight Bengal tigers. Other acts were fun to watch, but most lacked the thrill or hilarity we've grown to expect.

        As usual, the colorful clowns kept audience members of all ages laughing. Jon Weiss, along with sidekick Michu (the smallest man on Earth), was not only funny, but talented as he first balanced a 16-foot ladder on his chin, then later topped that feat by balancing a fully powered chain saw.

        The final act for this married father of three was even more dangerous. As the “Human Clown 'n Ball,” Mr. Weiss blasted out of a 9,000-pound gun at more than 65 mph and soared 100 feet across the arena.

        The too-brief performance by the Flying Tabares trapeze artists turned magical when black lights caused their costumes to dazzle as they flew from swing to swing.

        The Quiros high-wire performers provided the only nail-biting act of the evening. They made jumping rope and playing hopscotch on a pencil-thin wire 30 feet above the floor look easy. With no safety net to catch them, the men kept the audience on the edge of their seats (many hiding their faces, unable to watch).

        Moscow's Anton Beliakov proved why he is known as “Icarus” in Europe. Supported by two canvas straps, one on each wrist, Mr. Beliakov soared with tremendous grace 30 feet above the center ring.

        With his strong voice, 24-year-old ringmaster Kevin Venardos did a nice job of singing and directing the two-plus hour show.

        Twelve women carefully balanced on a bicycle. Two sisters floating by their hair. Twelve clowns spilling one-by-one out of a Volkswagen Bug. Ten elephants performing the classic “mammoth mount.” PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) quietly distributing fliers at the entrance. Performances like these can only be seen at the circus.
       Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Greatest Show on Earth through Sunday at the Firstar Center. $13.50-$35 at Ticketmaster, 562-4949.


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