Printable CopyBARNUM
March Productions
Goodwood Institute Theatre
Until 17 Mar 2019

Review by Fran Edwards

P. T. Barnum is a name synonymous with circus, and this show was designed to tell his life story. Written by Cy Coleman (music) and Michael Stewart (lyrics) from a book by Mark Bramble, the show treats his life as a circus with the Ringmaster introducing various phases and commenting on the action. Michelle Davy as director has pulled together a great young cast with the aid of Musical Director Mark Delaine and Choreographer Nina Richards to present a great show.

On opening night we saw the ‘Tightrope’ cast with Ben Francis leading the way as Barnum himself. Francis has enough of the showman in him to carry off this role; he convinces with his humbug and sings well. Annabelle Lane is perfect as his wife Charity showing the strong presence that aided Barnum through his trials and the emotion that kept this pair together. Their musical numbers are a delight especially ‘The Colours of My Life’ and ‘I Like Your Style’.

There are many talented performers with cameos – Zoe Foskett as Joice Heth gave a comic lift with ‘Thank God I’m Old’ and Oscar Bridges was all singing, all dancing, and all smiles as Tom Thumb in ‘Bigger Isn’t Better’. Other fine performances came from Harry McGinty as the Ringmaster; Cordelia Ferguson as the Swedish Nightingale, Jenny Lind; Jeremy Thomas as Bailey; and Taylor Tran singing ‘Black and White’ as the Blues Singer.

The ensemble numbers were full of life with acrobatics and tumblers; even Francis got to walk a tightrope! The second act costumes were bright and flashy, full of pizzazz, though some of the earlier costumes seemed out of place. The lighting also failed to do the cast justice in some places, maybe just a little brighter would be good. However full marks to the sound design team (Martin Gilbert, Allpro Audio) – no visible mics and good sound throughout with just a little too much volume on the band in one or two spots.

Congratulations to Mark Delaine for a great sound; they sounded much bigger than they were!
Great to see some young talent doing so well. Pay them a visit, you’ll be glad you did.