When the creators of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus planned this year’s three-ring spectacle they imagined treating audiences to mythical creatures such as unicorns and Pegasus.
It was a very familiar theme for Rye Mullis, the show’s director.
“The first (Ringling Bros.) circus I went to had unicorns,” Mullis recalls. “I still have the posters. It was really amazing.”
Ringling Bros. will bring its all-new show “Legends” to the Forum on Wednesday. It runs through Jan. 5.
The show will take the audience on a mythical trip using folklore and contemporary acts to bring the unbelievable to life, Mullis said. The winged Pegasus, a unicorn and a woolly mammoth are just some of the surprises in store.
“We’re tweaking (the show) up until the day it opens,” said Mullis during a break in rehearsals in Tampa. “At the end of the day, it’s not the easiest show on Earth, but it’s the most rewarding show.”
This is Mullis’s sixth Ringling Bros. circus, his third as director. He’s also directed productions of Disney’s The Cheetah Girls and Imagination Movers, and starred in stage performances of Mel Brooks’ “Young Frankenstein The Musical,” and “Joseph and The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.”
Ringmaster Jonathan Lee Iverson will lead the three-ring spectacle that features an international cast and crew of more than 100 performers, including clowns, dancers, musicians, acrobats, daredevils, animal trainers, and of course, animals.
There are more than 80 exotic and domesticated animals that include lions, tigers, horses and Asian elephants, along with dogs, llamas, goats and pigs.
Returning to the circus are acts such as the Torres Family, an eight-member team of motorcyclists that perform inside a 16-foot Globe of Steel at speeds of up to 65 mph, and animal trainer Alexander Lacey, who performs alongside his big cats.
And there are newcomers, such as the Medeiros Troupe, a motorcycle high-wire act that features eight “hairialists” who hang by their hair.
Mullis said he’s excited to be able to bring to life the circus he loved so much as a child, particularly Pegasus and a unicorn.
“To see this show as a kid with unicorns in the early 1980s and to expand on that 30 years later is like bringing the circus full circle,” he said. “For me, as director, I’m able to continue the story and make sure everyone has their own circus memory to take home with them.”