The Edinburgh Playhouse
The musical has a creative twist as elements of the circus are incorporated into the show. Characters include jugglers, clowns and particularly impressive aerial dancers. The audience were immediately placed into the world of the circus as acts were performed amongst them before the show began. Lights were strung from the ceiling to create the impression of the big top. The spectacle captured attention and set the precedent for what was to be a captivating performance.
Brian Conley starred as P. T. Barnum and proved to be quite the showman. Though it became evident – through his own jokes – that Conley was beginning to suffer from a throat and chest infection this did not deter from his performance. He provided the audience with a charismatic and loveable portrayal of the ‘humbugging’ showman and his stage presence was mesmerising. It may have taken three attempts but his tightrope walk was met with enthusiastic applause and any hiccups were handled so naturally that you had to question whether or not they were deliberate.
Conley’s performance was bookended by two female leads. Linzi Hateley portrayed both the sharply witty and emotional sides to Chairy Barnum with success. The husband-wife relationship that played out in the number “I Like Your Style” was charming to watch. Though only a minor lead, opera singer Jenny Lind (Kimberly Blake) gave the vocal performance of the evening with her stunning rendition of “Love Makes Such Fools of Us All”. Tom Thumb (Mikey Jay-Heath) and the “161-year-old nanny” (Landi Oshinowo) also executed their numbers with pizazz.
Act Two proved to be much sadder than the first and was jam-packed with emotion. The plot was sometimes hard to follow but the talented cast, creative choreography and sheer extravaganza ensured that Barnum was a huge success.