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'The Greatest Show on Earth' Comes Out of Retirement

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey will return in September 2023

A Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey clown performing a somersault during a performance

Chris O'Meara/AP Photo

A Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey clown does a somersault during a performance on Jan. 14, 2017, in Orlando, Fla.

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Five years after the iconic three-ring circus closed, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey will return with a 50-city North American tour, scheduled to begin in September 2023.

The circus tents were last raised in May 2017. After a 146-year run, declining ticket sales and rising costs prompted owner Feld Entertainment Inc. of Ellenton, Florida, to close the circus. A year earlier, circus officials had ended elephant acts over legal battles with animal rights activists. The new show will no longer have animals — or three rings, for that matter — but will strive to engage the audience in the action as it focuses on performers from around the world.

“We are innovating all aspects of the live show and modernizing the franchise to create an engaging property that is built for today’s families and will last another 150 years,” Kenneth Feld, chairman and CEO of Feld Entertainment, said in a statement.

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In a video posted on YouTube, Juliette Feld Grossman, the company’s chief operating officer and producer of The Greatest Show on Earth, explained that the circus has been “reimagined” with the audience in mind. “We’re going to bring the audience into the show in a 360-degree environment that is going to surround them with sounds and include them in audience-generated content for the very first time,” she said, adding “it will be spectacular fun that the whole family enjoys together.”

Casting director Giulio Scatola said they are “searching the four corners of the world for the best, most original talent.” More than 1,000 applications and digital submissions have already been received, and auditions are taking place in North and South America, Europe, Asia and Africa. “We have found superstars, and we can’t wait to introduce them to the world,” Scatola said.

Rehearsals are to begin in June 2023, with the U.S. tour launching three months later. Tickets are expected to go on sale in April 2023, according to the company announcement.

Peter Urban is a contributing writer and editor who focuses on health news. Urban spent two decades working as a correspondent in Washington, D.C., for daily newspapers in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Ohio, California and Arkansas, including a stint as Washington bureau chief for the Las Vegas Review Journal. His freelance work has appeared in Scientific American, Bloomberg Government, and