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The ‘Greatest Show on Earth’ takes one last curtain call

The greatest show on earth no longer: Ringling Brothers/Barnum & Bailey close production.

The greatest show on earth no longer: Ringling Brothers/Barnum & Bailey close production.

Michael Riggi // The Chief

Michael Riggi // The Chief

The greatest show on earth no longer: Ringling Brothers/Barnum & Bailey close production.

Michael Riggi, Layout Manager

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Ladies, gentlemen, and children of all ages witnessed the final act in the 50 year long history of one of the most iconic shows across the country on May 21.

 Forced into a tight corner from calls from animal rights activists and decreases in ticket sales, circus superpowers Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey were left little options except for shutting down the production altogether.

Performances in the final act in the “Out of This World” tour at the newly renovated Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale not only managed to stir emotions from long-time fans of the company, but from its opponents as well. As audiences screamed inside the Coliseum in spirit of one last celebration, there were just as many who protested against the show outside the venue.

Often accused of animal mistreatment from protesters, the company removed the Asian elephants from the traveling circus in 2015 and relocated them to the Ringling Bros. Center for Elephant Conservation. Removing that important element of the show proved to be difficult for ticket sales, but the show still prevailed nonetheless with the usual jaw-dropping stunts, skits, and souvenirs up until May 2017.

Not only was this last showcase of talent significant for both audiences and crew members alike, but it marked a nostalgically significant day for the 250 million people who have been touched by the company over the 146-year history of the circus and those involved.

As expected, vibrant colors, daring stunts, and clumsy-mannered clowns came together to put on a great show. Besides the planned gags and intruding “circus villains,” the cast made sure to reflect on the proud history of the show through both their performances and through some brief unscripted monologues.

To have a true moment of connection with the audience in the midst of taming lions and tigers was a spectacle truly unmatched in the past, as those devoted to their craft were able to share their last farewells with the large crowd. Those working with the animals especially made sure to share their personal experiences and long running family history in between affectionate hugs with the lions.

As bittersweet as it may seem, the final performance and lingering smells of popcorn and cotton candy will forever stay in the minds to those fortunate enough to attend. Stuntmen flipping and diving under horses mid-ride, professional motorcycle riders inches apart in the Globe of Steel, quadruple flipping trapeze-men, and pigs sliding down slides ended the show with a bang.

“Out of this World” proved not only a worthy closing act, but one of the most diverse and entertaining shows in the history of the company. Impressive choreography between skaters, animals, and other cast members made the show flow cohesively and excitingly throughout both acts.

Although this may mark the end for the show, the future looks bright for the talented crew members involved in the circus. Many crew members are continuing to entertain generations of audiences outside of the traveling circus while the tigers, horses, camels and other animals in the circus have been found safe homes.

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The ‘Greatest Show on Earth’ takes one last curtain call