The “Greatest Show on Earth” is making a comeback — minus animals.
Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus, which ceased production in 2017, will relaunch in September 2023, owner Feld Entertainment said on Wednesday. Tickets will go on sale in April of next year for a tour that will bring the revamped circus to more than 50 North American cities.
Once a mainstay of entertainment in small town and big cities across the country, the new Ringling Brothers circus will not have any of the lion, elephant or other animal acts long associated with the spectacle. Instead, it will feature human performers, according to Feld Entertainment, which also owns the Disney on Ice and Monster Jam franchises.
“The audience will surround the performance space, and connect in a more meaningful way,” Juliette Feld Grossman, chief operating officer of Feld Entertainment, told CBS MoneyWatch. The performances will tell “stories of who our performers are,” said Grossman, noting the cast will come from around the globe.
Word of the animal-free comeback tour drew a positive review from one animal rights group.
“Ringling is returning with a bang, transforming the saddest show on Earth into a dazzling display of human ingenuity after 146 years of animal abuse,” Rachel Mathews, PETA’s foundation director of captive animal law enforcement, said in a statement to CBS MoneyWatch. “PETA is cheering on the animal-free revamp.”
Ringling Brothers retired elephants from its shows in 2016 after years of complaints from PETA and other activists, but ticket sales continued to decline, and the once iconic circus put on a final show the following year.
At the time, Kenneth Feld, chairman and CEO of Feld Entertainment, said the circus had lost its footing among an audience accustomed to online games and YouTube celebrities.
“It’s been through world wars, and it’s been through every kind of economic cycle and it’s been through a lot of change,”. “In the past decade there’s been more change in the world than in the 50 or 75 years prior to that. And I think it isn’t relevant to people in the same way,” added Feld, whose father and uncle bought the circus in 1967.