CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Not everybody loves a circus. The noise, the flashy lights, the relentless sales pitches for this thing and that: not everybody can tolerate it. Not everybody likes being so close to the action. Not everybody likes clowns.The people from PETA, politely handing out leaflets in the mall Wednesday morning while a crowd of mostly women and young children stood out in the rain to watch a handful of elephants eat, don't like the circus either. They would like it very much if the circus, particularly Ringling Bros., went away.But not me: I love the circus and Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey have brought a mighty fine show to Charleston this week. The new show, "Fully Charged," is full of larger-than-life thrills, chills and excitement. It is absolutely fun for all ages.Every year or so, Ringling Bros. retools one of their shows and sends it forth. This one is fairly straightforward. While there are plenty of bright, modern colors and Dr. Seuss-inspired gadgetry, it feels more like an older circus.
For much of the show, those familiar three rings are back, but with a twist. Instead of the each ring containing a different attraction, here each is similarly themed, if not identical. For example, three rings of jugglers, but each group has a different twist on the same trick.The individual rings don't really compete for attention, but each supports a particular segment of the show.Also, "Fully Charged" doesn't have a plot for the audience to follow, as in previous shows. Instead, it moves at a brisk pace and doesn't try to be anything but a circus show.There's an undeniable high-tech flair, but the show relies heavily on acrobats, jugglers, dancers, daredevils and clowns. Animal acts were used sparingly. While there were no dogs, Ringling Bros. brought elephants, tigers and horses. I didn't see lions or any other exotic creatures, and I don't think there's been a bear at a circus in maybe a generation.Also absent this time around were the trapeze acts and the stunt drivers. Going without the motorcycles didn't seem like much of a loss. They're invariably noisy and often smoky, but the trapeze act? That's a circus institution. High points include the Mongolian strongmen (scary strong), the aerial performers (amazing to watch), the human fuse (he lights himself on fire and is flung through the air) and the animals.All of the animals looked magnificent. The tigers, in particular, were very impressive and gigantic.It was a good night. Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus's "Fully Charged" is a fantastic show.Reach Bill Lynch at firstname.lastname@example.org