P.T Barnum is the name as Hinckley Concordia Amateur Operatic present Cy Coleman and Michael Stewart’s biographical tale about the life and times of 1830’s P.T Barnum. Highlighting the ups and downs in Barnum’s life, the story is told through narration via 2 characters - Barnum and The Ring Master. The audience is rather uniquely told all this as if they are the circus audience and even in more intimate scenes this is not taken away. It's unique storytelling pattern is clever and this production presented it very well.
Daniel Morrison leads with dexterity and strength as the protagonist P.T Barnum reaching a real climax of performance ability in the finale of act one, which concludes with the tense scene in which Morrison defeats the tightrope - a real turning point for the character in the lead up to act two. Morrison is made for this role and rivals that of the professional productions of this show: a truly commendable performance. Additionally, Craigie Morrison provides a heartwarming Chairy Barnum - her character shift unveils Chairy’s real life. As the leading female, she contrasts the performance of Jessica Clarke-Wheatley as the circus’ vocal phenomenon: Jenny Lind and it is clear that this role is suited to Clarke-Wheatley perfectly. Finally, it is Ringmaster (James Martin) that adds real storytelling to the piece, as the writer’s expository device, allowing for constant belief and immersivity that we are inside Barnum’s circus tent.
It is a real treat to see amateur societies take on such a hard production. Learning various circus skills and flips is a nice touch, maintaining the integrity of the show. Notably, the circus style talent is clear in Matthew Perry as he slides onto the stage and breaks into the splits – a moment not to be missed! In addition to this, Perry’s ability to multirole across the show as Chester Lyman, Edgar Templeton and more provides a sense of strong professionalism that is not often utilised in amateur theatre and is a real treat in this show. Barnum’s circus' performers are also strong with notable performances from Tom Bell as Tom Thumb - his vocal ability is strong, but particular strength comes from his movement in his song Bigger Isn't Better.
The show's set (provided by Scenic Projects) is fitting as the traveling circus setting and has real depth for the change in the show from scene to scene. It is in Nanette Goodman’s Direction that there is real interaction with the set, but more noticeably in Lisa Marsh’s choreography there is scope for excellence across the piece. Lighting compliments and despite being dark in a few places and followspots occasionally missing some performers, it lifts the piece well. Similarly, there are some mic issues throughout and Sarah Bright’s undeniably strong musical direction isn't as impacting as it could be, in order to hype the scale of Barnum's circus, because of how quiet the output is. Aside from this, the crew and creative team on this show deliver a strong and convincing show.
Fundamentally, Barnum is unique, not often chosen by amateur companies because of its demanding staging. The show aims its appeal at those who want to simply watch a nice tale about success and failure. The show doesn't challenge its audience and for what it is, is a really enjoyable show. What is notable is the scale of this particular production by Hinckley Concordia and the efforts and talent of those involved really is commendable for amateur theatre. Visually the show really heightens in Black and White as the crisp monotone design engulf’s the Concordia’s stage. Slick dancing and stunning costuming (provided by The Loft Costumes) really knocked this number up to the highlight of the production, and its burst into colour at the end is a visual sensation – the show is worth seeing just for this sequence alone.
In the words of Barnum… 'Come on Follow the Band and Join the Circus' at the Concordia Theatre, Hinckley before 13 May!
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