There’s so many reasons to love the circus: the intricate costumes, the animals, the dancers and performers – and the clowns! Maybe it’s because I’m a huge fan of horror movies and clowns have generally creeped me out in the past, but a behind the scenes tour of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey® presents Circus XTREME last week in Pittsburgh shed new light on the crowd entertainers. I learned there’s so much more than what goes on when the show begins – and how the fun isn’t just when the lights go up!
It’s not everyday when you get to go behind the scenes of a massively popular touring show. So, when you’re asked to show up to PPG Paints Arena (Consol Energy Center has a new name!) 90 minutes before show time in rush hour traffic you say yes!
Our first stop on the backstage tour was costuming. With right around 100 performers with four costumes a piece, you’re looking at right around 400 costumes that need to me washed, mended, and kept for every show! One of the most spectacular costumes in Circus XTREME is the mermaid. It was so educational to learn about how the costume looked at inception and how the final product turned out.
Next came the fun – we were able to try on a few costumes! While the costumes we were shown are retired from the show, they were still just as impressive.
With thousands of sequins and many upwards of 10 pounds, I was all about the glitz and glamour of the circus. Hey, my family calls me a moth (I can’t help but be attracted to bright, shiny objects!) so the opportunity to touch and try on circus costumes was right up my street.
The circus has evolved and no longer uses sequins, but you can see the details in this coat’s sleeve.
The Kid tried on one of the heaviest jackets – 12 pounds of circus fun!
Next stop: XTREME Mechanics
While circus goers were enjoying the pre-show, we headed to the curtain area to check out the vehicles that make appearances in Circus XTREME. Our guides let us get climb inside to get a feel of how it looks from behind the wheel. Super colorful with a steampunk theme, this boat-style vehicle is a former airport luggage trolley cart that’s been souped up!
It was super fun to see all of the circus props for the opening number ahead of time, too. They were all huge and extreme. I’m sure that was the goal.
On with the Show!
The tour ended just in time for the girls and I to catch a few minutes of the All Access Pre-Show grab some clown noses and head to our seats. We We had really great seats, but, honestly, there’s not a bad seat in the house.
The opening number was filled with dancers, performers, and of course, the Ringmaster, David Shipman.
One of his earliest memories is going to the circus and his love of it has come full circle: he performed in his hometown at the exact same arena where he saw that first show during his first year of touring.
The camel act was a huge hit – no elephants in this show! Robert Stipka and the Desert Goddesses were super impressive with their display in animal acrobatics. The Mongolian Cossack Riders whirled and twirled atop the gorgeous two-humped Bactrian Camels and it honestly looked like a ballet. So beautiful!
Hailing from Spain, The Danguir High-Wire Troupe thrilled us all with their amazing feats of bravery. At 35-feet above the circus floor, the daring troupe balanced, jumped, and even skipped rope back and forth across the rope and they made us hold our breath more than once.
Nitro Nicole the Human Cannonball shoots herself across the stage floor at sometimes upwards of 90 feet in the air. Her only saving grace? A giant air mattress at the other end of the arena!
Beautiful aerialists whirled and twirled – and the Sirens of the Sea – aka the mermaids – were such a beautiful act.
We couldn’t wait to see Tabayera Maluenda, a sixth-generation circus performer. Along with his 10 Bengal Tigers, “Taba” makes taming lions look easy. I know, there’s always controversy surrounding circus acts, but the tigers looked well cared for and you could tell he adores them.
There was so much more, too. BMX bike riders, Mongolian Marvels with a strongman that can lift 550 pounds with his TEETH, and Alex and Irina with their super cute canine act made our hearts melt. The circus was definitely extreme and while one was act tearing down, another was on to keep us entertained.
Disclosure: A huge thanks to Feld Entertainment for providing tickets to its Pittsburgh show to give you fine folks the scoop on what makes the show so amazing for families. All opinions are my own!