For the first time since 2017, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus is back in New York, calling this year’s show “Re-imagined." NewsdayTV's Drew Scott reports. Credit: Newsday/Howard Schnapp; Feld Entertainment

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey is back, but not as you remember it. The circus, traveling under the moniker “The Greatest Show on Earth,” has undergone a significant makeover, promising a fresh experience for audiences of all ages.

“There are definitely lots of people out there who, when you hear Ringling Brothers, Barnum and Bailey have a very specific image of what that was growing up, experiencing the circus in that way,” says Alex Stickels, 34, who plays a show guide and drummer in the current iteration coming to UBS Arena in Belmont March 8-10. “After 157 years, things evolve.”

The circus with a history dating back to P.T. Barnum's traveling museum in the 1800s closed what was then to be its final show in 2017 in New York. Known primarily for its inclusion of animals like big cats and elephants, protests by animal rights groups joined by declining attendance led to its closure, according to a 2017 Associated Press report. This relaunch features no live animals. In their place is Bailey, the robotic quadruped “dog” who plays a genuine role in the cast and can be seen roaming the arena floor, engaging in mischief and playful antics before joining the entire cast in onstage choreography.

“We are using modern technology and we really want to tell the story of what going into the future looks like instead of just doing the things that we've always done,” says Stickels.

For many families, the return of the circus is an anticipated event, offering an opportunity to introduce a new generation of children to the magic of the big top. Long Island mom Dana Kraslow, 36, of Port Washington, shares her excitement, saying, “I know for a lot of people, they think of the elephants and the animals and to not have that there for them can feel different. For me, I've always gravitated toward the acrobatic and aerial aspects of a circus,” she says.

Kraslow also shares her anticipation for her daughters’ reactions. “My little one is 21 months, so she's a little too young to understand, but she loves movement and bright light,” she says. “My older one went to a circus when she was a year and a half old in the city and she loved it. So now that she understands what a circus is, I know that she is going to be very excited.”

As families eagerly anticipate this new chapter in the circus' history, it's clear that the spirit of wonder and excitement continues to thrive under the big top.

Here are five key differences to expect in this new chapter of the circus' history: 

'The ultimate playground'

That's what Ringling Bros. has dubbed its new circus arena. The 360-degree modular performance area starts out as vibrant arena reminiscent of a toy box before it transforms into a skate park where audiences will witness extreme sports acts featuring BMX riders, a unicycle rider and more.

New stunts 

Expect new acts at the reimagined Ringling Bros. circus, coming...

Expect new acts at the reimagined Ringling Bros. circus, coming to UBS Arena March 8-10. Credit: Feld Entertainment

A new triangular highwire, a twist on the classic high wire act which features a single wire, connects three 25-foot-tall wires in a triangular configuration. Acrobats will leap over their counterparts' shoulders and cyclists will maneuver atop the narrow wires in handstands.

A new take on clowns 

Bid farewell to traditional clowning as Nick Nack, one of the show's guides, and the Equivokee trio, performers from Ukraine, deliver uproarious comedy sans the makeup. They'll perform the famed Rola Bola balancing act where a performer is atop of a board that’s placed on top of cylindrical, spinning wheel, plus juggling and acrobatics.

Ringling Bros. "The Greatest Show on Earth" comes to UBS...

Ringling Bros. "The Greatest Show on Earth" comes to UBS Arena March 8-10.  Credit: Feld Entertainment

Trapeze with a spin

In a first for “The Greatest Show On Earth,” nine trapeze artists will take to the Criss-Cross Trapeze, a swing set with four pedestals. At the helm of this multinational troupe is George Caceres of The Flying Caceres, whose lineage traces back to the inception of the act by his father in 1982. . The performance features artists hailing from Chile, Ecuador, America, France and Brazil.

Aerial and acrobatic spectacle

There will be solo and group aerialists defying gravity with feats of strength and agility. From teeterboard to hand-to-hand balancing, these performances are a modernized version of classic acrobatic displays.

Photos: Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey through the years

A drum with the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus's motto, "The Greatest Show on Earth," is featured during a clown parade at Nassau Coliseum in October 1972. Credit: Newsday/Naomi Lasdon

The highwire act performs a fencing show as part of their performance during the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus at Nassau Coliseum in March 1990. Credit: Newsday/Kathy Kmonicek

Undated photo of Ringling Bros. and Barnum Bailey Circus. Credit: Handout/Handout

The elephants at Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey circus, 2015.  Credit: Heinz Kluetmeier

An aerial acrobat performs during a Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus community show to celebrate final performances in New York in March 2017. Credit: Newsday/Alejandra Villa

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey "The Greatest Show on Earth"

WHEN | WHERE 7 p.m. March 8, 11 a.m. 3 and 7 p.m. March 9-10; UBS Arena, 2400 Hempstead Tpke., Belmont Park

COST Starting at $48.85


Newsday LogoSUBSCRIBEUnlimited Digital AccessOnly 25¢for 5 months