In its only London venue of its national tour, Barnum has wowed audiences at the New Wimbledon Theatre. Since its opening in Chichester last July in the Festival Theatre's temporary auditorium Theatre In The Park, the staging has undergone some changes to adapt it from big top to conventional theatre.
Before the curtain had even gone up we were transported to the circus tent with the performers cartwheeling and juggling down the aisles of the auditorium entertaining theatre-goers and building up the atmosphere for the spectacle that was about to happen.
Brian Conley fronts the cast as America's Greatest Showman Phineas T. Barnum himself, charming and fooling the audience to perfection. It is impossible not to fall in love with him, despite his constant humbugging! His feisty wife Chairy is played sincerely by Linzi Hateley; her vocal ability is exemplary and together the pair have a touching onstage chemistry, which really gives the show its appeal. Looking at the world from opposing ends of the spectrum, they encompass the solidity and support that marriage can offer, whilst revealing the integral role of practicality in realising dreams. We are taken on an emotional roller coaster, and the incredibly talented leads seem to take us with ease.
The company was always a delight to watch, with ensemble numbers full of colour, warmth and joy, not to mention undeniable skill. Throughout the show their energy and vitality never dropped, ensuring an extremely slick delivery of a well-directed show. Choreographed by the reputable Andrew Wright, the show exudes imagination and excitement particularly in the impressive numbers 'Come Follow the Band', 'There's a Sucker Born Every Minute' and 'Black and White'. As always, his routines are nothing short of brilliant, remaining true to the style and era but never becoming predictable. Each routine is breathtaking. The stage is lit up with jugglers, aerialists, acrobats and trapeze artists; it is difficult to know where to look with such exhilarating visuals. Even Conley has learned some circus tricks, successfully crossing the stage on a tightrope (much to the audience's relief!). Admittedly, the plot is fairly slow paced, but the punchy cast don't let the audience's attention drop for a second.
It is an irresistible show that will no doubt have everyone humming their catchy tunes. The show is a visual delight that quite rightfully provoked a standing ovation from its very appreciative audience.
By Jemma Wilson
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