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The Net Takeaway: The Ring


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The Ring · 04/07/2008 12:45 PM, Personal

I had a nice Saturday night. I got a skybox seat at Madison Square Garden to a sold out show. Food and drinks in the rafters, looking down through the hanging LED screens as strains of an instrumental version of Prodigy’s Smack My Bitch Up rose throughout the arena.

The circus sure has changed.

Yes, I was at the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus. Note that, officially, it is not a Circus, it is “a wacky and whimsical circus spectacular”. Anyway, we had the opportunity to join some friends in their box at MSG to see the show. You go in through a side entrance, up to a 3rd floor restaurant and bar, then a second elevator takes you to the 10th floor to go to the box.

The boxes are all about the size of an average NYC Hotel room. Each has a bathroom, 2 rows of seats (7 or so per row) with ledges for food/drinks, and a standing area. Ice, fridges, freezers, and a sink along one wall, a table for food on the other. The view is literally from the roof; you look straight out to the retired number hangers. There is glass in front of you, but it’s only half height, which scared us when Sam started running up and down stairs and jumping onto seats. Unlike other box seats I’ve seen in other arenas, there were only a few, somewhat small, TVs, most of which looked pretty beaten up.

There is also a menu of food offerings. If you thought NYC was expensive before, you’ve seen nothing like this: $40 for a tray of chicken nuggets and pigs-in-a-blanket, enough to serve 4 or so kids. This goes up to $99 for a tray of pasta. 6 packs of beer were $30 for Bud Lite. It was staggering. Oh, and they confiscate any food/drink you bring in, including water (we were searched at the gate).

Hey, the circus souvenirs aren’t any better: from $15 for a “program” booklet to $25 for a flashing light spinner, its easy to see where the profit comes from in the circus game… well, from this stuff and the expensive tickets. But enough carping about cash.

Anyway, its clear that Ringling has had to face the world of Cirque du Soleil who changed the circus into “performance art”, the world of animal cruelty charges at every turn (they were protesting outside of the Garden, pushing brochures into kids faces), video games, fragmented media, and the general early tweening of youth.

How did they do? Not bad. Other than that mistake of using Prodigy tunes to soundtrack an act (with no words, thankfully, and no one I was with recognized the tune), they had a very clean Broadway style of songs and “parades”. Act 1 had lots of Cirque style acrobatics, very little trapeze. A very impressive 7 motorcycles in a cage was really cool… but the younger kids didn’t care much about.

The 2nd act had the animals: no lions, no Gunther Gebel-Williams who died in 2001, but an OK tiger act and a very nice elephants act. The kids were pretty rapt for the elephants, but even I was bored with the tigers.

Kids of Sam’s age, 3-4, don’t yet see the danger in some of the feats, so the trapeze and some of the other high-flier acts didn’t hold their interests.

The clowns also didn’t have as much physical comedy as I recall. There was the standard recurring joke of the ringmaster’s hat, which is ok, but I remember seeing clowns with big shoes, all climbing out of 1 small car, and lots of broad physical comedy. There was some cutesy, but the opening act was a dog run with frisbee catching. Come on, this is NYC; I can see that on Sunday afternoons in the park. Give me some clowning!

Also, the circus benefits from being down closer to the surface. Lots of comedy was missed because the clowns scatter and play to their section. From up top, you can see all of it, but miss all the details. Also, the trapeze act was obscured by the LED light show screens, so we only saw spinning feet and hands, never the whole person. But it was a pretty comfortable way to watch the show, esp. with a bathroom right there.

So, the box was fun, but we worry: this was Sam’s first time ever in a stadium. I sure hope he doesn’t think every visit to a show will be like this! The other problem, of course, is that he wants to see elephants every day now. Thank goodness for Flickr.

So, go see the circus. Like everything else, it’s not like you remember it, and don’t expect the kids to love it all… but they parts they like, they will remember forever.

* * *


  1. Three words: monster truck rally.

    andrew    Apr 7, 01:54 PM    #

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