*When I received a call from publicity ace Alan Miller inviting me to meet and lunch with the new producers of my all-time favorite show, Kenneth Feld’s Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey Circus, on the circus train in New Jersey, I was as curious to meet the two new additions as I was excited about seeing Ringmaster Johnathan Lee Iverson again.
On Tuesday, March 2, 2010, I was transported to New Jersey to attend a very special luncheon hosted by two chic circus chicks aboard the Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey circus train in Newark, New Jersey.
Once on board, an intimate number of hand-picked press people were greeted by the dynamic Feld sisters, Nicole and Alana, along with Ringmaster Iverson and Circus Chef Michael Vaughn and Circus Cook Tamara Shumate. The beautiful sisters are as big as a minute but don’t try and size them up by their petite frames as they are forces to be reckoned with!
During a delectable lunch prepared by Circus Chef Vaughn and his amicable staff in the bustling — opened 24-hours — dining car, the sisters mixed and mingled with their special guests, answering questions and taking photos.
Nicole Feld and Alana Feld were recently named executive vice presidents and producers of the Ringling Bros Barnum & Bailey Greatest Show On Earth by their father, Kenneth Feld. The stylishly savvy siblings could just as well been named executives of a fashion empire as they fit that bill as well.
Now, don’t make the mistake of calling them co-producers! They are quick to correct you. “The ‘co’ in front of the name sounds too fluffy. We are serious about what we do. We ‘produce’ the show together,” expressed Nicole emphatically.
“We didn’t get this far just because we’re our father’s daughters. We earned his trust,” added Alana vigorously! “Anyone who knows our dad knows that he has too much respect for what he’s been able to accomplish to just hand it over to us because we’re his daughters,” she said. “Dad felt we were ready and capable for the job,” concluded Alana.
The Greatest Show On Earth, Barnum’s FUNundrum! marks the first-ever female produced show. In addition, the new show celebrates the 200th anniversary of the birth of the legendary P.T. Barnum, the Greatest Showman on Earth!
“We want to continue the great legacy of P.T. Barnum to create a spectacular show that he would be proud of,” stated Nicole. “There is something for everyone,” added Alana. “Every performer pushes and challenges them to be greater performers.”
The transfer of circus power was set in motion in 2001 for Nicole who began an apprenticeship with her father, marking the third generation of Felds to bring joy, amazement, thrills and laughter to millions of families all over the world.
“One of the greatest pleasures I have is producing The Greatest Show On Earth with Nicole,” Kenneth affirms. “She has opened my eyes to a new way of thinking. In the past 139 years, we’ve certainly done a lot, but she brings a definite, contemporary spin to things.”
“I was born into this incredible world and have spent my whole life immersed in Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey” Nicole explains. “I don’t know what it means to not be a part of The Greatest Show On Earth!”
Her grandfather was responsible for reviving Ringling Bros. in the 1950s and her father has been key to the company’s success since taking the helm of Feld Entertainment, Inc. in the 1980s.
Today, Nicole – as the third generation of her family to do so – enthusiastically and creatively takes on the responsibility of changing, adapting and modernizing this American entertainment icon as it continues to thrive in its third century of existence. In 2003, Alana – who brings marketing expertise to the majestic table — joined her sister to complete the Feld dynasty.
Ladies and Gentlemen…Children Of All Ages… The Greatest Show On Earth just got Greater with Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Presents Barnum’s FUNundrum! featuring 130 performers from six continents, almost 100,000 pounds of performing pachyderms, cowboys, pirates, and mermaids. Barnum’s FUNundrum! is a super-sized spectacle so massive you just can’t miss it!
FUNumdrum! provides hours of thrilling entertainment that is fun for the whole family with ticket prices starting as low as $15! Ringling Bros. offers the greatest value in family entertainment which is why the circus is Ticketmaster’s number one most purchased family event.
Tickets are priced as follows: $150.00 (Circus Celebrity) $70.00 (VIP Seats), $50.00, $30.00, $20.00 and $15.00 (prices do not include facility fees and taxes). Opening Night tickets are only $12.00 (excluding Circus Celebrity and VIP seats).
Tickets are available at ringling.com, all arena box offices, and all Ticketmaster outlets, by phone at 800-745-3000 or ticketmaster.com. All seats are reserved. To learn more about Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey, log on to www.ringling.com.
Also if you arrive an hour before show time for the All Access Pre-show – FREE to all ticket holders – you’ll be able to meet performers and animals, learn circus skills and enjoy a taste of the performance before the show even starts! It’s the beginning of an experience you and your family will never forget.
The circus train is set to make stops at Newark, NJ (Prudential Center March 3-7), East Rutherford, NJ (IZOD Center March 10-14), Long Island (Nassau Coliseum March 17-21) and New York City (Madison Square Garden March 25-April 4
During the meet and greet, Ringmaster and New York City’s own Iverson, spoke about his two new female bosses and his exciting role as the circus’ front man. “Nicole and Alana is an extension of their father. They learned from the master and it shows in their capable handling of the day to day operations and events at The Greatest Show On Earth
Nicole spoke about the name FUNundrum. “FUNtastic adventure in store for children, women and men of all ages to meet exotic characters and witness thrilling performances that attempt to answer Barnum’s FUNundrum, ‘What special wonders create The Greatest Show On Earth?’”
She also spoke briefly about some of the highlights of the show: the Flying Caceres attempt to complete the elusive quadruple somersault on the flying trapeze; a feat that hasn’t been mastered in over three decades. Watch the Puyang troupe from China dazzle with a stunning display of dexterity as they bounce, flip, and twirl to new heights on a two-tiered trampoline.
“Be amazed as they witness the impossible contortions of the body benders who fit three humans in a cube the size of a milk crate,” exclaimed Alana. “Enjoy the wondrous ability of the Mighty Meetal, the strongest man in the world, as he lifts over 1,200 pounds,” she stated.
Nicole then introduced us to hand balancers Duo Fusion, a married pair of performers with an astonishing twist — the wife does the heavy lifting; and tiger trainer Daniel Raffo.
She also delightfully reminded us that “New York and New Jersey are well-represented as there are several performers and creative staff who are part of this magnificent production.
Not only will the 140th Edition celebrate the 200th Anniversary of P.T. Barnum in one of the biggest spectacles that has ever been seen, this will also be the first year Nicole and younger sister, Alana produce The Greatest Show On Earth together — making this the first time in history with two women producers.
Nicole has spent almost 30 years surrounded by performers whose circus roots span centuries, and she has seen wave after wave of multi-generational audiences be amazed and amused by their exploits. No one understands more completely the deeply family nature of the enterprise with which her own family “has been entrusted.”
When she was 10 years old, Nicole went to circus camp and happily joined in trapeze, teeterboard and roller-skating routines. She harbored secret thoughts of perhaps becoming a performer herself.
However, a healthy dose of trepidation eventually kicked in, giving her “a real appreciation of what these people do every day – the constant discipline, rehearsals and everything else they go through to perfect an act, often a dangerous one, that lasts only a few minutes!”
While Nicole approaches her position as producer of one of the world’s most treasured entertainment institutions with great seriousness, professionalism and the ultimate in dedication, one also comes quickly to realize that she knows more than a little about fun.
Nicole’s childhood was, to say the least, exceptional. Her festive play dates were with clowns, trapeze artists, and animal trainers. And she counted elephants, tigers and even zebras as her pets!
Never mind Dr. Seuss, she remembers being tucked in at night listening to the real-life tales of her globetrotting dad, fresh from another talent-scouting jaunt to Beijing, Budapest, Tangier or Buenos Aires.
In 2007, Nicole was promoted to the position of executive vice president and was responsible for producing her third and fourth editions of Ringling Bros. which included Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Presents Over The Top and Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey presents Boom A Ring.
In addition to producing two circuses in the same year, she also produced three tours of Disney’s High School Musical: The Ice Tour. Now with several years of experience under her belt, 2009 marks a momentous year for Nicole and the Ringling Bros. history.
As executive vice president and producer for Feld Entertainment, Inc., Alana’s inventive and resourceful business sense has transformed the company’s touring structur
By having Alana work closely with the company’s creative development department and the company’s stage shows sales and marketing team, Feld Entertainment now brings more shows to a greater number of domestic and international markets than ever before.
A graduate of Boston University, Alana began her career working for advertising agencies but she (as with her sister, Nicole) soon found herself gravitating back to the family business.
In 2003, Alana joined the company and her promotional experiences gave her unparalleled success in marketing Feld Entertainment’s live family touring productions, Disney On Ice and Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey, in one of the country’s top entertainment markets, New York City.
This achievement took Alana to Europe where she successfully marketed the company’s international Disney On Ice shows. In 2006, working alongside her father Kenneth, Alana returned to the United States and retraced her grandfather’s footsteps as a rock-n-roll promoter, by bringing the first North American tour of Doodlebops Live! to a legion of pint-sized fans across America.
After the successful launch of Doodlebops Live! in 2006 and Playhouse Disney Live! in 2007, Alana recently produced yet another Feld Entertainment venture: Disney Live! presents Three Classic Fairy Tales. This creative collaboration between Alana and her father Kenneth features the stories of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Cinderella and Beauty and the Beast live on stage.
Disney Live! presents Three Classic Fairytales toured more than 16 cities all over Asia through 2008, setting a precedent as the first ever Feld property to launch in Asia.
This year, Alana will be able to include producer of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Presents Barnum’s FUNundrum! to her already long and impressive list of accomplishments, as she works alongside her older sister, Nicole.
Barnum’s FUNundrum! marks the 200th Anniversary of P.T. Barnum’s birth and the first time in Ringling Bros. history that two women have produced the circus. “I’m excited to be able to work closely together with my older sister on such a momentous edition. My family has been entrusted with the only living legacy of the greatest showman that every lived and I’m honored to be a part of this,” explains Alana.
As a third generation, Alana’s lifelong exposure to both the imaginative and business side of live entertainment has quickly made her a valued member of the Feld Entertainment team.
Nicole and Alana’s quest to constantly “push the envelope” along with their intuitiveness for exciting new properties and their ability to adapt and place them on tour gives the company a competitive edge over other live entertainment productions. (Photos by Audrey J. Bernard)
Audrey J. Bernard is an established chronicler of Black society and Urban happenings based in the New York City area.