18th April 2019
Norbury Theatre, Droitwich
Type of Production
Author: Bruce Wyatt
This American musical is based on the life of showman P. T. Barnum, covering the period from 1835 through 1880 in America and major cities of the world, in 1871 he launched the traveling spectacle that would eventually become the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus.
Wymsical’s ‘Phineas Taylor Barnum’ was played with complete command (by Matt Street on the night I attended). He delivered his lines including asides to the audience, with pace and clarity, and handled his musical numbers, some at great speed, exceedingly well. His wife ‘Charity’ (played by Beth Bullas on the night I attended) also proved an accomplished performer and brought a great feeling and understanding to the role. Beth too sang well and her Act 1 duet with Barnum was particularly moving.
The master of humbug, Barnum introduces us to ‘Joice Heth’ who is purported to be aged 160 years. Such was her portrayal it took a while to discover it was the somewhat very much younger Hannah Jones. Other characters are well played not least, Sam Nield as ‘Tom Thumb’, Sylvie Symons as ‘Mrs Stratton’ and in an appealing cameo as ‘Pierrot’, Ray Needham. Credit too to Morgan Wolseley-Charles who covered six other roles, all well played.
On the night I attended, Ella Cain fulfilled the role of ‘Jenny Lind’ the ‘Swedish Nightingale’ with a pleasing presence and accent, whilst Emma Sinden as the ‘Blues Singer’ sang ‘Black and White’ with power. But entertaining us throughout, from the foyer before the show began, making balloon animals, to juggling and linking the on stage action, was Eddie Thomas as ‘Ringmaster Bailey’. Eddie oozed confidence and personality.
This musical gave Britt Needham every opportunity to the polished senior and junior chorus to excel in all styles of movement and dance from tap to ballet. Full marks to the production team for incorporating the tiny mini circus clown bike, some confident plate spinners and the aerial antics of Imogen Gunter. Everyone was very well dressed with plenty of colour and the set conjured up a great atmosphere.
Initially I was concerned about the impact of 16 players in the on stage orchestra, in the intimate space of the Norbury Theatre, but the sound was generally well balanced; up beat when desired and soft when essential. Congratulations to the Director Tori Wakeman and the entire production team.