Date 15th March 2019
Society Blyth Music and Theatre Company Ltd
Venue Phoenix Theatre Blyth
Type of Production Musical
Director Jackie Grey
Musical Director John Hudson
Choreographer Jackie Grey and Hayleigh Pearson
Producer Jackie Grey


Author: R J Lowry

Blyth Music and Theatre Company’s Barnum was a barnstorming extravaganza worthy of any professional theatre. It was atmospheric, colourful, vibrant and very entertaining. Liam Grahame Olsen (PT Barnum) was the lead character in more ways than one. He not only carried off the biggest and most important part in the production but he also led the show from the front without overshadowing the rest of the cast. It is tempting to compare his performance with that of Michael Crawford (whom I saw in the West end) but I think Liam’s was better, being less of a self-centred “star vehicle” performance, more of a team leader and catalyst. An outstanding contribution that fitted the theatre and the production perfectly. Tamara Herron was the complete counterpart to Barnum as his put-upon wife Charity. She was never eclipsed by Liam but a match for him all the way with a very enjoyable performance. Michael Douglas’ ringmaster was up to the usual high standard – commanding, full of character and atmospheric. Elle Richardson was a stunning and talented Jenny Lind who not only played a star of the circus but was one in her own right. Judith Leese did a nicely comic Joice Heth with a foot-tapping performance with prop piano and great moves in dance. Kath Dryden entranced the audience with her powerful voice and Kieren Simm played little Tom Thumb in a big way. Pete Bayly and Russel Rafferty made much of their supporting roles, played with skill and enthusiasm beyond the call of duty. The fixed set was used remarkably well (creatively decorated with props and people as appropriate) so that it blended in with the production and was a showcase for the live action without complexity. The costumes and make-up deserve special mention as they added significantly to the spectacle of the show, as did the circus skills of the Edwards Family; it was great to see some real circus acts that added immeasurably to the reality of the show. And though offstage, the musical accompaniment was superb, and an on-stage presence throughout the whole show. Yes, you really did feel you were at the circus from the moment you entered the theatre until the final curtain. Very many congratulations to the whole cast but especially to the musical director John Hudson and the show director Jackie Grey for bringing the big top to Blyth with such style.