Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Nottingham Theatre Royal

Barnum is the story of Phineas Taylor Barnum, the Greatest Showman of them all, a title that could also be levelled at its' star, Brian Conley.

The entertainment starts even before curtain up with some of the jugglers and acrobats roaming around the stalls, balancing on seat edges and throwing balls the full width of the theatre.

The theatre now demands so much from an actor. Before if you could walk, talk and maybe sing, you had a good chance of being cast. Now, and especially in "Barnum", the actors have to juggle, be acrobatic, sing, dance, act, play instruments and in the case of Brian Conley, juggle, dance, do illusions, stilt walk, fire eating and walk a tightrope ten feet from the floor as well as sing and tell jokes.

There are not many actors, nay entertainers, who would be able to play Barnum because of these additional skills, and Brian also draws the audience in by involving them in with his role, making them extended tools of his trade. Looking so at ease on stage he automatically instilled every confidence in the audience that he could do anything he wanted and we would lap it up, and it certainly worked.

Mr Conley twinkles his way through the musical and expresses varied emotions throughout, further rounding out his already all round entertainer label. Is there nothing this 53 year old can't do?

It's exciting, it's breath taking, it's colourful and fast moving and your eyes will not leave the stage for fear of missing something. A live band, under the musical direction of Ian Townsend, housed at the top of the stage area provided a really tight, crisp sound, As you would expect from the story of the circus showman, the lights were bright and exciting, creating a wonderful atmosphere.

While we were all there to see Brian Conley, he was surrounded by a wonderfully talented cast of dancers, acrobats, tumblers and probably some ex circus performers, Two wonderfully experienced singers in Linzy Hately (Cherry Barnum) as his wife and Kimberley Blake (Jenny Lind) the Swedish opera singer who Barnum fell for when he took her on tour.

This is a musical of split second timing for the acrobatics and of great trust from Conley and co, as many of the cast were either caught from great heights or tossed about in the same way as Barnum tossed his coin he used to make his decisions with.

Giant elephants, Tom Thumb, tongue twisting lyrics, silk dancers. 160 year old women and so much more lie in wait for you in what was billed as The Greatest Show On Earth. While I wouldn't quite go that far, I would say that, with one of the Greatest Showmen at the helm, this is way above average in the musical entertainment stakes.

"Barnum" is at The Nottingham Theatre Royal until Saturday 14 February 2015 but, and quite rightly so, tickets may be scarce, so I should check at the box office before just turning up.

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