P T Barnum – Brian Conley
Chairy Barnum – Linzi Hateley
Jenny Lind – Kimberly Blake
Tom Thumb – Mikey Jay-Heath
Joice Heath – Landi Oshinowo
Ringmaster – John Stacey
Show date – Saturday 28th February 2015
Barnum is not a massively well-known musical. If I had not seen it on a TV show about theatre which I think was on channel four quite a while ago now I would never have known what it was about. I thought it looked different to other shows and would be a good theatre experience. Even more so when Brian Conley was announced in the leading role.
The show actually starts before the start time with the cast all over the theatre juggling, balancing and entertaining the crowd. It was rather impressive and helped to set the mood of the show. Although I will admit that it was not all the circus style acts and routines when it started like I expected. The only part I really knew about beforehand was the tightrope walking routine, which did not disappoint just before the close of the first act.
The story of Barnum was not just about him trying to make a success of himself and his show but also the relationship with his wife and how this is strained at times. She does not often agree with him, or maybe that should be hardly ever. The chemistry between Conley and Linzi Hateley was very good from start to finish and they work very well together as husband and wife.
Conley has very good on stage presence and the charisma to really pull off being Barnum. He is on stage for nearly the whole show which must be extremely demanding, but he certainly gave it his all. He is cheeky and smiling throughout with a decent American accent to go with it as well, he really became the character for this show. I saw it on the last night at the Theatre Royal in Newcastle after a two-week engagement. I won’t say that it is anywhere near the best shows I have seen, I think this is due to the songs not being very memorable. They fit well within the show, but lyrics and meaning wise they were lacking in something.
I think my favourite moment came from Mikey Jay-Heath as Tom Thumb in that musical number. He was both a strong singer and dancer and it really did make for a very strong engaging performance. Very talented.
I was waiting for the tightrope walking moment which you can see a picture of above. The whole audience held their breath at the same time as he went for walk across, getting his balance every now and then. It was a very good moment to watch and see him make it to the other side. This must be one of those moments in theatre that is very difficult to get right each time, surely it has had mistakes and slips over the years!
So while the story and musical numbers weren’t the strongest you will still get enjoyment from everything that is happening on the stage. It also has some funny moments and exchanges which will make you laugh out loud. So a slightly different trip to the theatre, which was a pretty expensive one as the ticket prices were quite steep for it. Restricted view in the upper circle was 41 pounds each! I did leave it until the last-minute to get tickets though, but I guess a better seat would have cost even more.
If you would like to see if Barnum is coming to a theatre near you in the UK you can check out the remaining dates here.