Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey opened its “Over the Top” circus show to a big Charlotte crowd Wednesday night. The production, which marks the 138th edition of “The Greatest Show on Earth,” has stopped at Time Warner Cable Arena for a five-day tour.
Thousands of kids, who need no reason to laugh, and parents, who in these troubled times no doubt really need some humor, turned out for the three-hour show. It featured all the circus standards – from acrobats and clowns to contortionists and elephants.
The biggest hits and most applause followed a tiger and his bunny hop, a trapeze artist's midair triple somersault and daredevil motorcyclists. The crowd oohed and aahed as one bike darted across a tight rope and the biker – and the trapeze artist dangling below him – performed stunts. The biker drove standing in reverse. The trapeze artist swung upside down. Later four motorcyclists raced inside a steel globe. Then five. Then seven.
But the tussle for bragging rights between the show's lead clown (Tom Dougherty) and the Ringmaster (Chuck Wagner) – the show's loose story line – wasn't that funny. On the laugh-o-meter Tom, a 30-year clown veteran, was the winner. He scored the most chuckles. The audience snickered and clapped when he tapped a microphone to the tune of Queen's “We Will Rock You” and played “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” on a cell phone. And closer to the end, Tom had every kid in the house screaming for bubbles, which the Ringmaster said were against circus bylaws.
The show is sure to be a hit with families. But one word of warning: It is long. On one hand, you get your money's worth. On the other, you're there long enough for the kids to get grumpy and for you to shell out more money than you'd like on cotton candy and popcorn and souvenirs ranging from red clown noses to oversized hats and glasses.