Alana Feld, co-producer of Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey's Built to Amaze
The circus is in town.
Since January, Ringling Bros & Barnum and Bailey has been touring their new show Built to Amaze, featuring The King Charles Troupe unicycle basketball players, the human cannonball Elliana Grace, hilarious clowns and much more. Now, after a run of shows in California, the “Greatest Show on Earth” is coming to SLC’s EnergySolutions Arena, Sept. 27–30.
“We have 110 performers who come from 17 different countries around the wold,” says Alana Feld, who produces the show with her sister Nicole. “And we have some amazing performers, like Tabayara [Maluenda], who’s our incredible big cat trainer, and he works with 18 tigers in an arena, which is pretty spectacular.”
Work on the production started a year before opening. “We were literally traveling all over the world to look for the most talented performers that we could bring to the United States and to American audiences,” Feld says. Over the course of the year, work also went into costume design, lighting, choreography and composing music for the circus' live band. All that building led to amazement. “Probably one of the biggest, most frequent comments I’ve received is the show really feels fresh and has a contemporary feel to it,” Feld says. “And kids are obviously responding well to that.”
But before ringmaster Andre McClain takes the arena floor, we did this quick Q&A with Feld on what fans can expect, how the animals are really treated and what it’s like to work in a circus/family biz.
Tell me a bit more about the show coming to SLC.
“The show Built to Amaze is exactly how it sounds. It’s an entire show that’s built to amaze. The title really stems from the theme and concept of the show, which is all about construction and how we build a circus. Throughout the show, you see performers and animals and everything, but it’s really about how we construct a circus. In addition to physically constructing a circus, since we travel and we’re in a new city every week loading in all our scenic pieces, animals, costumes and lighting, it’s really about everything else we build in the show. We build laughs. We build awe. We build thrills of all sorts."
Circuses are often criticized about treatment of their animals. How are your animals really treated?
“We have an incredible staff of animal specialists who travel with the show. In addition, we have a full time veterinary staff for Feld Entertainment, and they travel constantly to all of our units inspecting our animals and making sure they’re healthy. The staff on the road—they live every minute of their lives by these animals, and they’re looking after them for their entire lives with every mean they have. They’re very well cared for, and I believe that they thrive in the environment at Ringling Brothers.”
And you produced the show with your sister, Nicole Feld. What’s it like working with family in the circus?
“It’s amazing. We’re a family business, so I have another sister and I also work with my dad. It’s what we grew up around, so when we were kids my dad used to ask me all the time ‘What do you think?’ And we were really the target audience at the time, and it’s great to be able to now have a real job within the company and work with my family. I think if you get along with your family and you’re able to work with them, it’s great, because there’s so much trust there. We know each other so well that it’s so much easier and so efficient to actually get stuff done."
We saw a promotion on Ringling Girls and Barnum Boys. What’s this about?
“One segment in the show, you get to see what happens when you pit the women of Ringling Brothers against the men of Ringling Brothers, and they’re constantly trying to one up each other. You get to see some of the best performances during that segment. We have an incredible display of hand balancing, where we have two couples, a man and a woman, both couples are married, and they each do a hand balancing display. But instead of the man lifting the woman, which is pretty typical in a hand balancing act, it’s the woman who’s carrying the weight of, in this case, their husbands. It’s something people will leave the show and not believe what they’ve seen. It’s pretty incredible. We have an amazing human cannonball, who happens to be a woman. And over on the boy’s side, we have an incredible high wire troupe. And Mustafa Danguir, who is using the high wire, actually jumps over four people. It’s probably the moment people close their eyes, because it’s absolutely terrifying to watch. It's so exciting.”
Tickets to the circus run from $20–$90. Click here to get yours.
Show up an hour before, with tickets in hand, to meet the performers on the arena floor before the show. Kids will get to try on costumes and maybe learn a few skills, like juggling or walking on a wire (low to the ground, of course). It’s also the best time to meet and get a few laughs in with the clowns.