Ringling Bros. Circus rides into Pittsburgh

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Last weekend, the tireless Bruce Springsteen amazed fans by crowd-surfing halfway across the floor of Consol Energy Center.

Brian "The Human Fuse" Miser has a quicker way to get there. He is mounted on a giant crossbow and launched at 65 miles per -- while on fire!

Ringmaster Brian Crawford Scott doesn't hesitate to say that it's his favorite spectacle in Fully Charged, the current incarnation of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, which pulls into Consol tonight.

If you go

The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus will be at Consol Energy Center, Downtown, at 7 tonight and Friday; 11 a.m., 3 and 7 p.m. Saturday; 1 and 5 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $20; $12 for opening night. Tickets are available at www.Ringling.com, www.Ticketmaster.com, at Consol or by calling 1-800-745-3000.

The All Access Power Up Pre-show Party, which allows fans to meet the performers and some of the animals, is free to ticketholders and begins one hour before the show.

"It's amazing to watch," Mr. Scott said, "but I have the very unique perspective of being directly beneath him when he fires."

"The Human Fuse" got his start in the local amateur circus in his native Peru, Ind. He's been with the circus for eight years, launching more than 6,000 times, but every flight is an adventure. "You're pretty sure you know where you're going to land," he has said, "but sometimes you worry you'll be a little short or a foot over."

"He's got to make changes and adjustments everywhere we go, depending on how big the space is," the ringmaster said. "There are times when he flies a little lower than normal and I can kind of feel the flames, and I think, 'Uh, he's a little close today.' "

Mr. Scott is the 36th ringmaster in the 141-year history of Ringling. A musical theater major at the University of Northern Colorado, he got the part after answering an ad for a New York City audition.

"I had just decided that I wanted to start pursuing job opportunities, and there was no reason for me not to. I felt, 'This can't hurt me.' It's a great way to start in."

Amazingly enough, Mr. Scott had never seen the circus before he joined Ringling two years ago.

"It just never came up," he says. "It's not like we were against the circus or anything. I grew up in San Jose, Calif., and it certainly was there. My parents, much to their chagrin, never took me and they get no end of grief from their friends now because of it."

As ringmaster, he's surrounded by the comical cut-ups in Clown Alley; Tabayara, who goes face to face with 12 tigers and gets 4-ton Asian elephants to dance; the Fernandez Brothers, who perform daring feats on the Twin Turbines of Steel; Mongolian strongmen The Titanic Tulga and Mighty Meetal, who lift, um, telephone poles.

And there's much more where they came from.

"What's surprised me the most is the level of dedication and professionalism around me," Mr. Scott said. "When I started this job I didn't know what to expect, but getting to know all these different performers -- the jugglers and the acrobats and the aerialists and these people from different countries, some of them being former Olympic athletes -- I was impressed to see how much time they put into practice and their eagerness to learn new skills and keep developing their current act."

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Scott Mervis: smervis@post-gazette.com; 412-263-2576. Twitter: @scottmervis_pg


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