Laydeez and gentlemen, boys and girls: If you're going to the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, here's a tip--get there early enough to take in the preshow performance, which starts an hour before the main event on the arena floor and offers some of the best moments of the day for the youngest members of the audience. No need to blow the budget on expensive front-row seats--any ticket will get you up close and personal with the painted ladies, the knob-nosed clowns, and the amazing retinue of acrobats and trained beasts. As for the real show: Daring young men on the flying trapeze will never thrill like they did when you were a kid, but if recent seasons are any guide, this glitzy, high-tech spectacle lives up to its slogan as the greatest show on earth--and the cotton candy still melts on your tongue. This year's star is Sara, the glamorous "Tiger Whisperer." Other performers are the hair-hanging Ayala Sisters; Jon Weiss, the clown who gets shot from a 9,000-pound cannon; and the Quiros high-wire quartet, performing 36 feet above ground without a net. Souvenirs will give you sticker shock, but glow sticks for the munchkins are de rigueur. Shows are at 7:30 Fridays; 11:30 AM and 3:30 and 7:30 PM Saturdays; and 1 and 5 PM Sundays, and continue through November 12 at the Allstate Arena, 6920 N. Mannheim in Rosemont. Tickets are $9.50 to $50 at the box office or from Ticketmaster, 312-559-1212.