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No matter how quaint the circus seems in this CGI-besotted age, there's still something about watching living creatures (human and otherwise) performing in real time that keeps this ancient entertainment thrilling. OK—sometimes the thrill comes from watching an elephant poop in the middle of an act, which prompted the biggest gasp from the crowds on the night I attended. But there are more than enough rehearsed thrills in this current edition of a venerable American tradition—fearless acrobats, inspired clowns, eye- and ear-pleasing spectacles—to keep an audience enthralled. And this year the folks at Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey have jettisoned the chaotic, sensory overload of three rings in favored of a more focused, and more pleasing, single ring. —Jack Helbig

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