‘The Greatest Show’ is back; Ringling Bros. to return in 2023 with changes

Put up the tent and clowns, get the makeup ready. The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey show is coming back next year. But while the aerobatics and clowns will once again be performing, the animals will not.

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The traveling circus ended its more than 140-year run in 2017, citing dwindling ticket sales and controversy over using animals in its shows, CNN reported.

Prior to the retirement of its elephant acts in 2016, New York and Illinois had started the procedure to ban the use of elephants in traveling shows, The New York Times reported.

Show producers Feld Entertainment announced Wednesday that the show will return without animals in September 2023.

Feld Entertainment produces popular tours such as Disney on Ice, Marvel Universe Live, Jurassic World Live Tour and Monster Jam.

Giulio Scatola said the new show will have a storyline, instead of its previous series of disconnected acts, The New York Times reported.

Scatola is a former Cirque du Soleil choreographer who is looking to cast the new version of “The Greatest Show on Earth.”

Gone will be the mile-long train that carried animals, crew members, performers and gear from city to city, replaced by planes or vehicles and hotels to stay in, the Times reported.

Not all agree that the crowds will return to the show if the animals are not part of it.

Competitor Justin Loomis, who co-founded the Loomis Bros. Circus and still uses animals including ponies, tigers and elephants, told the Times, “They can call it a circus, but I think their audience is going to be disappointed.”

He said that people will purchase tickets based on their memories and when they see the show will ask, “Where were the animals?”

Loomis skips locations where animal acts are banned.

Still, the same groups that opposed the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus before it closed are now applauding Feld Entertainment for rethinking the show.

“Feld’s decision to bring the circus back without animals sends a very clear message to the industry that the circus can dazzle audiences with willing human performers and that no animal needs to be exploited,” Rachel Mathews told the Times.

Mathews is the director of the captive animal law enforcement division of the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals Foundation.

Auditions are happening now with the new cast starting to rehearse the final script next summer before embarking on a 50-city tour across North America in the fall, CNN reported.