The Theatre Royal Nottingham is part of the city’s Royal Centre which also incorporates the Nottingham Royal Concert Hall. The venue is a proscenium arch theatre and boasts a capacity of approximately 1,100 over four levels and is in its 150th year since original construction. The Theatre Royal attracts major touring productions such as Dramas, Opera, Ballet, West End Musicals and has an annual Pantomime.
Barnum is a musical with a book by Mark Bramble, lyrics by Michael Stewart, and music by Cy Coleman. It is based on the life of showman Phineas Taylor Barnum, spanning the time of 1835 through 1880 in America and major cities of the world where Barnum took his performing companies. The production combines elements of traditional musical theatre with the spectacle of the circus. The characters include jugglers, trapeze artists, acrobats and clowns, as well as such real-life personalities as Jenny Lind and General Tom Thumb. The original Broadway production ran for 854 performances and was followed by a London production, among others.
Brian Conley played P.T. Barnum, his showmanship characteristics and choices were exceedingly apt to the vaudevillian style and brilliantly executed for the size of the Theatre Royal. Sadly, this was contrasted by his singing ability, or spoken pitch, which seems a more appropriate way of describing it. However, as aforementioned his overall performance was brilliant, and this is evident due to the sheer amount of credits that are similar of nature to this character. Linzi Hately playing Chairy Barnum is just a delight to watch, her acting is stunning, her voice is great and her delivery is strong. On the odd occasion her accent dipped in and out and there were a few English-isms creeping in, but only occasionally.
The ensemble of the cast were such a strong ensemble, right from the beginning of the show. As the audience walk into the auditorium of the theatre they are met by the performers performing their juggling skills, handstand walking, acrobatics, partnerwork, hoop work and many more just to name a few. The delivery and range of the level of circus skills and interaction with the audience was amazing. The performers utilised all the space by going onto the upper circles and interacted up there. The fact that the audience were met by the circus performers aided being transported into the world of circus, as if you had just stepped into a big top.
The choreography of the show was very strong, I think the strength of the ensemble helped massively. The ensemble were so animated throughout which is what Barnum as a show needs due to being high energy and a spectacle. The big numbers such as Come Follow The Band, Black and White and One Brick At A Time were all so slick. One Brick At A Time had so much traffic and so many props it was insane, hats off to choreographer, Andrew Wright; and ensemble for completing all the throwing and catching of the 24 large bricks on stage. Additionally, some moments of choreography were very Fosse and stylised which was nice to see due to personal liking of the style and suitability for the vaudevillian style.
Standout performances of the show come from Kimberly Blake playing real life super star Jenny Lind. Blake looked as utterly stunning as she sounded, her gorgeous stratospheric soprano rung cleanly through the space – especially in the Love Makes Such Fools Of Us All Reprise. Additionally, the ensembles entire performance, in particular the hand balancers.
Reviewed by Thomas Yates
Barnum is on tour around the UK. Click here for more information and venues.