Circus will amaze with lions, tigers and...dragons?
Troupe Scala from Cuba makes its U.S. debut in Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Presents "Dragons."
Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Presents ‘Dragons’
Allstate Arena, 6920 N. Mannheim Road, Rosemont
(847) 635-6601; www.allstatearena.com
United Center, 1901 W. Madison, Chicago
(312) 455-4500; www.unitedcenter.com
Updated: October 31, 2012 12:38PM
Stepping into the ring at a relatively measly 180 pounds, renowned animal trainer Alexander Lacey greets his family of 700-pound beasts very carefully.
With personalities ranging from “playful” to “lazy” to “occasionally grumpy,” Lacey’s stable of lions and tigers can be unpredictable — just like people. Yet, having grown up around these big cats his entire life, Lacey claims never letting fear enter the ring with him.
“Seriously, I never have been scared,” Lacey says, attempting to sound convincing. “Wait, I’m lying. The first time, I was petrified. When you get down there without bars separating you and the animals, you realize how big they truly are.”
Currently making his American debut with Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey’s “Dragons” show, Lacey says the handling of tigers and lions have been somewhat of a tradition in his family. Hailing from Nottingham, England, the Lacey family has, in fact, raised more than 11 generations of lions and nine generations of tigers. Yet, Lacey says he was never forced into it. Instead, he was sent to boarding school by his parents to ensure that the family business was something he truly wanted to get into.
“When you get into this business, it’s something you dedicate your life to, 365 days of the year,” says Lacey, whose fiancee works as a trapeze artist.
After countless accolades and shows throughout Europe with his amazing act, Lacey was asked to join the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey team in the states. And while Lacey said he was thrilled at the opportunity, getting his family of tigers and lions to the U.S. did come with its share of challenges.
“I guess it was similar to flying with a dog or cat, except the boxes were much bigger,” chuckles Lacey. “It was their first time on a plane, so it was nice that we were able to stay with them throughout the flight until we landed.”
Lacey and his family will now spend the entire month of November in the Chicago area, appearing in Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus dates at both Allstate Arena and the United Center. “Dragons” also will feature acts such as the Shaolin Kung Fu Warriors, charging Cossack riders and a magnificent display of Asian elephants.
“In today’s world there are so many options for kids, and you are basically competing with their phones or iPads for their attention,” explains David Kiser, Ringling Bros.’ vice president of talent, and a former circus clown. “The fact is that you cannot capture the true magic of the circus on a screen.”
Kiser travels the world to find undiscovered talents, and says he enjoys pushing the envelope for the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey audiences.
“These are real, live human beings who are here to inspire the audience,” Kiser said.
“In Europe, we wouldn’t perform for more than 4,000 people at the most,” adds Lacey, whose mom lives not far from the Wisconsin/Illinois border. “Here, we can play for up to 17,000 people at a time, which is just fantastic. These are wild animals we are working with, so the audience — and I — never truly know what the night will hold.” ~.