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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Exotic escape fires up Tucson Convention Center

    The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey brought their ?Fully Charged? performance to Tucson Convention Center on Sunday night.
    The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey brought their ?Fully Charged? performance to Tucson Convention Center on Sunday night.

    Fireworks may be illegal in T-town this July, but that didn’t stop the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey from detonating their explosive circus monopoly in the Tucson Convention Center last weekend.  

    If America is a melting pot of freaks and geeks, the three-ring, two-hour “”Fully Charged”” performance at the Greatest Show on Earth is pure patriotic fondue.

    On Sunday night I was “”fully charged”” $18 for a seat in the back of the stadium, but courtesy of the show’s 7:30 p.m. start time — the third show of a long day in an even longer weekend — I was able to move up to the third row with no resistance from the beleaguered squad of black-vested ushers. The awed audience members, no matter where they took their seats, were soon treated to a festival of popcorn-chomping escape.

    Ringmaster Brian Crawford Scott belted out stereotypically thematic lyrics (“”Fire it up!”” to introduce the Human Fuse, “”Think big!”” for the elephant regiment) and talked up his talented coworkers with smarmy bravado.

    The show’s top-billed clowning duo Vas and Stas (graduates of the Moscow School of Circus and Variety, which is a real thing) alternated between Laurel-and-Hardy-style buffoonery and jerky audience participation. Their most entertaining bit occurred at the beginning of the show when Vas strapped on an electric guitar and challenged the audience to a game of call and response with “”Smoke on the Water.”” When he changed the tune at the last second and tripped up the entire crowd, all had to wonder who the real clowns were.

    Exotic animal trainer Tabayara Maluenda played up his Latino heritage, shouting “”azuca!”” while whipping a gauntlet of white and Bengal tigers onto their hind feet like broken ballerinas.

    A team of Asian elephants (followed closely by a team of shovel-wielding poo-wranglers) balanced gracefully on small podiums ringing the arena, and then balanced on each other’s hindquarters.

    Brian Miser, the Human Fuse, was paraded into the ring on a giant crossbow, and then jettisoned across the stadium at 65 mph … on fire.

    The most daring performance occurred on the “”wheel of steel,”” a giant metal pendulum attached to a hamster-wheel-style cage swirling through the air. A lone, spandex-clad artist of near-death first ran in the cage, then on it, then jumped rope above it at the apex of the pendulum’s uncompromising arc. Despite a gasp-inducing stumble, he never fell from the deadly metal dynamo.

    From beginning to end, “”Fully Charged”” was a kinetic, curvy panorama in vibrant spandex, scented with strongman-thick nacho cheese and the subtlest whiff of violent death. As ringmaster Scott sang in the final parade of elephants, stiltwalkers and Chaplin-faced clowns, the glee in the performers’ faces rivaled that of the audience. Ultimately, the circus was exactly what it needed to be — spectacle for the sake of spectacle, distraction for the sake of distraction — and every child in the audience between the ages of eight months and 88 years left the TCC fully charged.

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