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Extreme Makeover: Big-Top Edition

The circus comes to town with some brand-new tricks.

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The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus is looking an awful lot like the AST Dew Tour these days. Motorcyclists rev up inside a giant sphere, BMXers wow crowds with gravity-defying stunts, and a clown with Vanilla Ice’s old haircut jumps rope on top of the Wheel of Steel. “The show got a face-lift,” says ringmaster Tyron McFarlan.

Even though this isn’t quite the same circus your grandma saw when she was a kid, some elements remain the same. After all, it’s a 137-year tradition. “I still wear a top hat,” says McFarlan. Plus, marching elephants, dancing poodles, and tightrope-straddling acrobats remain big-top draws. “The show has some of its traditionalism,” he says. “But it’s been bumped up to appeal to younger audience members.” McFarlan, a theater vet, says he never dreamed of running away and joining the circus when he was little. In fact, he never even saw one in person until he was an adult. Now that he’s part of the Ringling Bros. family, McFarlan relishes his role as ringmaster -- a position held by only 33 guys before him. “But you won’t see me on a tightrope,” he laughs. “Unless it’s 10 inches from the ground.” www.ringling.com.
Tuesdays-Fridays, 7:30 p.m.; Saturdays, 11:30 a.m., 3:30 & 7:30 p.m.; Sundays, 1 & 5 p.m. Starts: Oct. 19. Continues through Oct. 27, 2007

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