Ringling’s ‘Illuscination’ opens on June 17

for The Brooklyn Paper
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The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey’s new magic-themed circus, “Illuscinat­ion,” marks the return of the so-called “Greatest Show on Earth” for a second summer in Coney Island.

If you loved the Ringling Bros. “Boom-a-Ring” show last year, too bad because you won’t recognize any of the hair-raising stunts filling the stage at this summer’s extravaganza — except the elephants.

The one-ring action begins in Coney Island on June 17.

“This isn’t so much a circus as a high speed variety show with tons of circus elements,” said ringleader David DaVinci. “There will be lots of illusions, so there will be something for magic fans and circus fans.”

Production manager Jason Gibson worked on last year’s show in Coney Island and was absolutely “blown away” by the enthusiasm level.

“People are so fired up about the circus,” he said.

Dream-like events will include a blindfolded acrobat soaring through a ring of 40 sabers ablaze in flames; a trapeze artist who forgoes the wire in favor of her own hair, which will suspend her 35 feet off the ground; and of course, majestic Asian elephants.

To really make this show live up to its Barnum-esque hype, DaVinci will be doing some dare-devilish stunts of his own, like escaping a straight jacket while dangling three stories over a lion’s den.

“I’m afraid of heights,” DaVinci said. “So hanging up there was a personal challenge for me.”

DaVinci won’t be the only one attempting magic.

Clown extraordinaire Dean Kelly hosts this year’s all-access pre-show, where guests will have an opportunity to win an authentic circus elephant footprint.

In a special show to commemorate the 200th birthday of legendary P.T. Barnum — the “Barnum” in the Ringling Bros. name — the circus is hiring a medium to contact Barnum himself on July 5. The circus folk hope to get some advice from their expired inventor to make the show even better next year.

It’s a bit of ballyhoo, but that’s what Coney is all about.

“I’ll definitely be going to the séance,” said Dick Zigun, who runs the Mermaid Parade and the Coney Island Sideshow.

Other fun events during the two-month run include clown auditions on June 23, and an attempt to break the record for biggest pie-throwing fight on July 20.

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey’s “Illuscinat­ion” [Surf Avenue and W. 21 Street in Coney Island, (800) 745-3000], June 17–Sept. 6. Tickets start at $10. For info, visit,

— with Joe Maniscalco

Updated 9:26 am, June 4, 2010
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