Wednesday, 5 October 2016

"Barnum" by Greasepaint Prosuctions.
Loughborough Town Hall.
Roll up Roll up, the circus is in town. And what a spectacular show we have for you, courtesy of Mr Phineas Taylor Barnum. Adding more than just a little colour into your life, this is the story of the legendary P T Barnum and his shows. Behind all the glitter and glamour, there's a story of a man, and the woman who helped made his dreams a reality. 
This show is a very technical one, as well as one where you have to get your casting right. Director and producer, Shane Perry did just that.
There were four big highlights for me in this show, apart from the entertaining circus skills, the great music and the kaleidoscope of colour, and they started with the leading man, P T Barnum played by Gareth Wynne.
Following in the footsteps of actors like Jim Dale, Michael Crawford and Brian Conley, Gareth juggled, tumbled, tightrope-walked and performed magic tricks and sang perfectly, executing tongue twisters like "The Museum Song" and "The Prince Of Humbug" with ease. Switching easily from comedy to sadness and incorporating the circus skills as metaphors for parts of his life. He juggled his personal life and the tightrope walk was as risky as the risks he took in his career. The phrase "if at first you don't succeed...." a quote you could use for his own life, as well as his tightrope skills. Gareth shone as bright as his red sequined jacket. 
James Nelson, as the Ringmaster was the narrator and glue that kept the story rolling on. His role reminded me a bit of "Emcee" in "Cabaret" but with a lot more physicality. James also took the roles as the Concertmaster as well as James A Bailey, the impresario who managed to get Barnum back into the circus ring at the end of the show, giving us the Bailey in Barnum & Bailey. Another sharp role for James which also allowed us to hear what a great singing voice he has as well.
Barnum's wife, Chairy, was played by Emma Healey. there's a saying that goes that behind every great man there's a great woman, (or was that just a lyric from a Eurythmics song?). Chairy was that great woman. She played Barnum at his own game and always won, ever supporting him, even through the hinted indiscretions, right to the end. Not only is Emma a wonderful actor but she has one of those voices that you could listen to all night long.
Jenny Lind was the "star turn" that Barnum was looking for and he snatched her contract away from his friend and fell for her in a big way. Played by Holly Easter, she's another very strong character actor with an amazing voice, as well as being very easy on the eye. 
A fairly large ensemble who filled out that Big Top wonderfully as stilt walkers, tumblers,jugglers, clowns, acrobats, aerialists, strong-men etc. A veritable feast for the eye.
Not everything went exactly to plan but that's the joy of live theatre and the bits that didn't, just proved what consummate pros these actors are with ad-libbing, especially during one scene where Barnum was being costume changed by Wilton (Jonny Painting) where Barnum nearly showed another set of talents. All completed though with great sense of humour which the audience loved.
Another comical moment came during the mechanical clock scene, again with Jonny, where a blow to Barnum was maybe a little too low, causing a snigger. 
Anyway, to (Big) Top it all, this show is just what you need to chase those October blues away. It's great fun, there's some wonderful songs, a great band, under the direction of James Stevens, It's colourful, there's a touch of sadness, a wonderful story, amazing costumes (as you'd expect) and a whole lot of talented people who have worked really hard to perfect some of the skills on show.
What can I say? Just get yourself down to Loughborough Town Hall sometime between now and Saturday and get yourself a front row ticket for "The Greatest Show On Earth" to be amazed and astounded.

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