Ringling Bros. circus coming to MassMutual Center

Ringling Brothers, Barnum and Bailey clown ambassadors, David and Cherie Gregg
By Craig Harris

Special to Reminder Publications

The circus is coming to town. That's the word from husband and wife David and Cherie Gregg, who as Ringling Brothers, Barnum and Bailey clown ambassadors of laughter, were in Springfield to herald the arrival of the circus' Gold Unit show, "Boom A Ring," to the MassMutual Center from Nov. 6 through 9.

"It really is an amazing show," David Gregg said, taking a break during a promotional appearance at the Big Truck Show in Chicopee. "It might be only one ring but we take all of the excitement and fun of the three-ring shows and pack them into that one ring."

The single ring allows for a very intimate experience. "[The audience] is closer to the action than they will ever be," said David. "Their seats are so close that not only can they hear the tigers growl but they can actually hear them purr."

"Boom A Ring" is a showcase of international talent. "We have Vas and Stas," said David, "a comic juggling act from Russia, featuring the Dean Martin/Jerry Lewis of the circus, Vasily Trifonov and Stanislav Kniazkov. There's an amazing crossbow act, Martti and Liina, from Finland, featuring archer Martti Peltonen and his wife, Liina Aunola. There's an amazing acrobatic troupe, the Negrey Troupe, from Russia."

Venezuela-born Javier Castro will be joining with his wife, Jasmine, and William Correa, as the death-defying trio, Los Scalas. "You'll see them on the high wire, 40 feet in the air, on a wire no thicker than your thumb," Cherie Gregg said. "Later on, you'll see them on the whirling wheel of steel. It spins around and around right in front of your head and the wheel goes faster than the Los Scalas do. They can't keep up with it so they end up flying through the air with the greatest of ease."

A Ringling Brothers, Barnum and Bailey circus is not complete without animals and the Gold Unit is no exception.

"We've got Vincenta Pages and her amazing white Bengal tigers," Cherie said. "There are massive thousand-pound elephants that are stronger than strong yet gentle as a butterfly and [Diana Vedyeshkina's] cute little dachshunds."

Since their Ringling Brothers, Barnum and Bailey debut in 1999, Newton-born David and Brockton-born Cherie, who met at an audition for the now defunct Clown College in 1990 and married two years later, have watched the circus evolve.

"It's become more personal and interactive," David said. "The audience can come to the all-access pre-show [an hour before the start of "Boom A Ring"] and learn how to juggle, walk on a tight wire and swing on a trapeze."

"When I'd go to the circus [as a child]," Cherie recalled, "I wanted to touch everything, meet the performers and see what the circus was like. Now, audience members of all ages can try on different costumes. They can try an actual trapeze or tight-wire."

The pacing of "Boom A Ring" is a further step from the traditional Ringling Brothers, Barnum and Bailey circus with a theme running throughout the show. "It's really smooth," said David. "There isn't a ringmaster. The show just flows from one act to another."

The show's theme is bound together by Justin Case, a clown/bicycle acrobat who studied circus skills and acrobatics with a Chinese master in Australia and at Annie Fratellini's School in Paris and Ecole Sans Filet in Brussels. "He's a really hilarious performer," Cherie said, "and he does amazing things with a bicycle. He stumbles in on the circus, ends up being in the wrong place at the wrong time and somehow finds his way into the show."

Despite increasing competition from other circuses, Ringling Brothers, Barnum and Bailey remains, according to the Greggs, "The Greatest Show on Earth."

"Its 138 years of tradition is its cornerstone," said David. "It's a year older than American baseball," his wife added.

The key to the circus' success remains its appeal to "children of all age."

"It's a family tradition," Cherie said, "one of the few places where you can see three or four generations of the same family."

"And all of them having fun," interjected her husband, "laughing over the same jokes, ooh-ing and aah-ing over the same fantastic high-wire act or tiger performance. They'll walk away knowing in their hearts that this was something that they've shared with the rest of their family."

"Boom A Ring"

Ringling Brothers, Barnum and Bailey Gold Unit

MassMutual Center, Springfield

Nov. 6. 7:30 p.m.

Nov. 7, 7:30 p.m.

Nov. 8, 11 a.m., 3 p.m., 6:30 p.m.

Nov. 9, 1 p.m., 5 p.m.

Tickets: $43 (first row), $33 (VIP floor), $23, $15

For further information, call 787-6600