Waltzing elephants, kissing tigers and flaming men blasting from a human crossbow electrified the arena floor with excitement. But to one mother in the crowd, the highlight of the show was the young man who burst into melody while guiding the audience on a riveting journey through each incredible act.
After the festivities of opening night, Heidi Scott, a Mountain View software engineer, joined her family as well as animal trainer Tabayara Maluenda, the Brothers of Brawn, the members of Clown Alley and the rest of the circus stars for a congratulatory feast. She says she would never have imagined celebrating her son's 25th birthday in this way, let alone having him return home as the man in charge of the "Greatest Show on Earth".
An unexpected future
Brian Crawford Scott is the 36th ringmaster in the 141-year history of Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey Circus, and to Heidi, it is all very surreal.
No one had expected her son to join the circus after graduating from college with a degree in theater.
"It was definitely a surprise because when we all thought of musical theater, the circus didn't enter any of our minds," Heidi says. "But the more I thought about it, the more I thought it was perfect for his personality."
As a child, Brian says he never dreamed of joining the circus nor did he desire to pursue theater.
"When I was little, I wanted to be an astronaut and archaeologist, and when I was in high school, I wanted to be a writer," Brian says. "Theater wasn't really on my list of things to do."
High school drama
So how did a boy who never aspired to be an entertainer, had never even attended a circus as a child, grow up to be a ringmaster?
Brian remembered his mother taking him and his brother to a performing arts camp in the Bay Area when he was only 10. But it wasn't until his junior year in high school that Brian joined his school's theater program.
After joining, Brian attended an annual thespian conference in Los Angeles and met the director of the musical theater program at the University of Northern Colorado. Impressed by Brian's talent, the director offered him a spot in the program at the university.
Brian decided to seize the opportunity and pursue a degree in theater. Little did he know that his training in performing arts was building the skills that he would later need to capture and the demanding role of a ringmaster.
"Having studied musical performance in college really prepared me a lot," Brian says. "Aside from the singing and performing aspect, there's a lot of level of professionalism. You need to be a professional to maintain the right health mentally and physically, and what prepared me the most was training in college to be a professional performer."
After receiving his degree, Brian moved to New York in search for a job as an entertainer when a friend told him about the ringmaster audition for the Ringling Bros. show, Fully Charged. Brian sought his mother for advice and received lots of positive feedback.
"She was really excited when I told her about this audition," Brian says. "Right away she thought this was really good for me and encouraged me."
Through this chance audition, Brian captured the hearts of the Ringling Bros. producers and talent scouts.
The college graduate who left for New York in search of a future comes home to family and friends in San Jose. With him he brings a new career and stories of living in a mile-long train and performing for audiences around the country.
"I thought my work would always be taking me to places like New York, I never pictured San Jose as a place where I'd be performing," Brian says. "To bring the biggest thing I've ever done home, I'm a little anxious, but very excited."
"His family and friends are very excited," Heidi said before the circus came to town. "I can't wait to see him perform."
Fully Charged opened on Aug. 17 at the San Jose HP Pavilion and after a stop in Bakersfield, will be performing at San Francisco's Cow Palace from Sept. 1 to 5 and Oakland's Oracle Arena from Sept. 8 to 11.