Beyond the Books

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Monday, March 19, 2012 7:37 p.m.

Barnum & Bailey’s transforms Verizon Center into big top

Circus tigers

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey's circus performed Thursday through Sunday at the Verizon Center. Photo used under the Creative Commons License.

The circus rolled into the District this weekend, drawing cheers and laughter from the crowds with high-flying performances and plenty of clowns.

The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey spectacle “Fully Charged” was part of a tour marking the circus troop’s 141 years of performances.

Ringmaster Brian Crawford Scott, clad in a sparkling suit and top hat, sang throughout the show, encouraging the audience to “think big” under the big top.

“Fully charged, are you ready for the greatest show on earth?” he asked.

The performance featured trained animals, including 10 horses and six ponies who trotted in unison Sunday around the floor of the Verizon Center.

Exotic animal trainer Tabayara Maluenda paraded six Asian elephants around the arena. Maluenda also snapped his whip as fully-grown tigers pranced on their hind legs.

A huge crossbow shot the “human fuse” Brian Miser across the arena as the ringmaster warned children, “Do not blink, do not look away.”

The show also featured fire jugglers, acrobats, Mongolian strongmen clad in metal kilts, gymnasts and more than a dozen clown acts.

“How many clowns does it take to change a lightbulb?” Scott joked to the audience as a handful of jesters slid up and down ladders, reaching for a huge bulb and stumbling over their oversized shoes.

The 2.5-hour show incorporated musical selections from popular artists including Michael Jackson, Cascada and Owl City.
Protesters stood outside the arena distributing pamphlets against animal cruelty. One flyer, published by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, alleged that the circus company’s elephant training methods make it the “cruelest show on earth.”

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey’s will return to the District next March with a new show, dubbed “Dragons.”

Lauren French contributed to this report.