By Anna Ferguson
When the Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey circus comes to town on Thursday for its first visit to Gwinnett, the show will be a little different from past performances.
The new Ringling Bros. tour, "Upside Down World," packs the action of a three-ring circus into a one-ring show, said Jason Gibson, production manager for the Ringling Bros. circus.
Don't be fooled by the reduced size, though. A smaller venue doesn't equate to less excitement. If anything, Gibson said, it means more. All the traditional circus acts will be included in the one-ring show, from dancing elephants and high-wire ballets to pliable contortionists and crazy clowns.
"It's a more intimate show, with a more European-type feel," Gibson said. "The whole show is really beautiful. Being a one-ring show makes it much more focused, and you never miss any of the action. The show is literally just feet in front of you. You're right there in the mix of it all."
Headlining the program is the Upside-Down Act. The pair of performers does circus acts as they stand - upside down, of course - on the ceiling. The husband-and-wife team are two of only six people in the world able to take on such an act.
"When people see them twisting and tossing basketballs and walking upside down, they are just blown away," Gibson said. "It's probably one of the most exciting things I've ever seen."
Just how do these topsy-turvy performers do it? Well, Gibson's not going tell.
"It's a trade secret, sorry," he said.
As for Gibson, his favorite part of the show happens before the lights go down. The All Access Preshow, held an hour before the circus begins, allows audiences to interact with performers and animals, as well as safely try their hand at circus stunts.
"You get right up close and personal with the performers," Gibson said. "It's like a show within a show. If you miss that hour, you have actually missed part of the show. If I can give you any advice at all, it's get there early. The preshow is something you definitely do not want to miss."
SideBar: If You Go
What: Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey Circus
When: Thursday through Aug. 19. Showtimes are at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, 10:30 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. Friday, 11:30 a.m. and 3:30 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, and 2:30 and 6:30 p.m. Aug. 19.
Where: Arena at Gwinnett Center, 6400 Sugarloaf Parkway, Duluth
Cost: Tickets range in price from $15 to $50.
Info: Call 404-229-6400, or visit www.gwinnettcenter.com or www.ringling.com.