Greatest Show on Earth brings greatness to Chicago

You know you’re a mother -when, instead of being amazed at the tiger/lion tamer -you’re wondering how that conversation went: “Ugh, mom, I’ve got something to tell you. I’ve decided to join the circus and be the lone person in the tiger’s den, hoping he won’t eat me.”

If you go

The Greatest Show on Earth

  • At the United Center through Nov 25
  • Tickets are -, parking is free
  • Call (312) 455-4500 or visit
    for tickets

But since that wasn’t my son nearly being torn up by lions and tigers, I must admit that this Ringling Bros. and Barnum& Bailey: Dragons was as exhilarating as it was when I didn’t worry about the fate of the lion tamer. And more.

The circus had everything it’s always had: The elephants, horses, token dwarf, animal protestors and wiry trapeze artists. It also went well beyond what you’d ever expect from a circus that swung into town for a few weeks.

The first inkling of the out-of-the-norm show was the motorcyclist who zoomed over the crowd connected to a tightrope wire, accompanied by two acrobats who did ridiculously incredible upside-down stints while zooming high above our heads. We sat in the seventh row, which made this stunt even scarier, as they were directly over our heads (please don’t fall, please don’t fall).

A few acts later were the two women who did tricks hanging from their ponytails. Yes, their ponytails were connected with a wire that held them up while they twisted and turned and managed to smile and make even that look like a fun thing to try (don’t).

Then there were the Shaolin Warriors, who broke sticks over their heads and bent steel rods using their necks. It was quite impressive and scary and awe-inspiring all at the same time.

The ringleader, Johnathan Lee Iverson, who made his claim to fame as the first black man to hold the job (full disclosure: he went to high school with me), was great as always. He captured the crowd of unruly children and nostalgic adults smoothly and entertained everyone with traditional Greatest Show On Earth boomings.

If you come to the circus, make sure you arrive about an hour early to enjoy the free all-access preshow. You’ll get to go onto the stage to meet some clowns, watch jugglers up close, take pictures with the performers and watch a continually changing show just a few feet in front of you. But if you go to that pre-show, you should probably bring $5 so your child can do the bouncy house. If you don’t happen to have any cash on you and your child notices the bouncy house, there may be a meltdown. Just sayin’.

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