Ringling Bros. circus is back after a 5-year hiatus—but without animals

May 18, 2022, 3:57 PM UTC

Five years after calling it quits, the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Baily circus is back for an encore.

The famed traveling circus will return in September 2023, production company Feld Entertainment announced via a YouTube video Wednesday. The latest incarnation, though, will be animal free, following years of controversy about the circus’s treatment of elephants, lions and more.

The “reimagining” of the so-called Greatest Show on Earth will seemingly follow the path carved by Cirque du Soleil, focusing on performers and contortionists. Indeed, it’s a former Cirque du Soleil choreographer that is heading up casting for the revised circus.

Before its’ shutdown (where tickets went for as much as $2,000), the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus had been an entertainment icon for 146 years. Known for its exotic animals and aerobatic performances, it was considered a wholesome entertainment option for families.

But animal welfare groups criticized and protested when a circus would come to town, gaining more and more attention over the years. Those groups accused the circus of cruel treatment of its animals, especially elephants, which were phased out of the circus in 2016.

Auditions for the circus are underway now and a 50-city tour will begin next September.

The same challenges exist, however. The rising popularity of television, video games and the internet proved to be hurdles Ringling Bros. couldn’t overcome before it shut down. And even the popular Cirque du Soleil is still trying to recover from the pandemic. Revenues at that company went from $1 billion per year to zero overnight in 2020, forcing a bankruptcy filing and sale of the company.

Cirque du Soleil has resumed shows in the past year.

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