Magic abounds when the circus comes to town – especially this year.
For the first time in its 139 years of bringing the "Greatest Show on Earth" to the wondrous masses, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey is incorporating the world of illusion in its latest creation, "Zing Zang Zoom," which kicks off its second-year tour at downtown Miami's AmericanAirlines Arena from Friday, Jan. 8 through Jan. 18. Think the mystique of Cirque du Soleil colliding with classic, family-friendly circus acts, with a modern twist.
"Zing Zang Zoom are our new magic words, as opposed to "Abracadabra," which is real old-school," says "Zingmaster" Alex Roman, who calls himself a hybrid of a performing magician and ringmaster and MC of a traditional Ringling Bros. circus. "We're kind of revitalizing."
They're also injecting a refreshing shot of youthful energy to the show.
"We've been touring with this show for a year now, and America has loved it," says Roman, who at 24 is one of the youngest people to lead a Ringling Bros. production. "I think they like the excitement and mystery of the magic mixed with the thrills of the circus. So you're scratching your head and thinking, "How is this happening?" then gasping as human cannonballs are flying through the air. It's pretty cool."
And potentially mind-boggling.
"Most magicians perform on a stage or in a theater, where there's only one wall that's open," Roman says. "I'm performing magic in the round, so there's nothing to hide. I make a four-ton elephant vanish at the very beginning, and it's kind of a welcome to the show that you're never gonna forget."
In "Zing Zang Zoom," Sean Davis, 37, is part of the Clown Alley troupe, featuring "a very cynical man named Mr. Gravity," who along with his trio of sidekicks called The Heavies tries to undermine the circus.
"So everything that defies gravity, like the high-wire acts or anything that is good and happy about the circus, Mr. Gravity and his Heavies try to thwart it, throw a monkey-wrench into it." It seems their efforts are for naught, however: "I myself get cut in half, another clown gets put into a contraption called The Stretcher, and another one is put into the Fire Spiker."
Of course, in addition to make-believe threats, there is real peril for the performers.
"We practice daily and nightly to reduce the amount of injuries and accidents, but there's always an inherent level of danger," says Davis. "During our finale, we do a number where we bungee out of these huge fabric tubes. And I did have a scare earlier this year - some of my bungee cords broke, and thank God I didn't fall and hit the floor."