On Stage: Barnum, Wales Millennium Centre

The UK Tour of  Cameron Macintosh and Chichester Festival Theatre’s Barnum may be drawing to a close after a year but with less than a handful of performances to go at Wales Millennium Centre, the show is still bristling with energy, enthusiasm and magic.

Set in the mid 1800’s, the musical follows the colourful career of America’s first show business entrepreneur, Phineas T Barnum and his relationship with his wife Chairy.

From the offset, there are many colourful characters which pull the audience into the show, the ensemble cast are pivotal in setting up the musical’s circus setting by interacting with the audience via a host of tricks and stunts ultimately setting the tone for things to come.

As the show gets underway, Brian Conley steps onto the stage, announcing with his trademark broad smile that he is PT Barnum. It might be what Barnum himself would term as “a humbug”, but within seconds Conley fits into the role of the legendary showman like a glove. Barnum’s a role Conley was born to play and he gives the role more than a 100% from start to finish, mixing comical improvisation with a dazzling array of song and dance routines topped off with a tight-rope walk and a fire eating stunt.

Linzi Hateley gives an equally strong portrayal as Barnum’s hard headed, tough talking wife Chairy who frequently has to reign her  husband in from making wrong decisions but equally provides strong support for good ideas. Indeed as colourful a show as Barnum is, the chemistry between Conley and Hateley is essential to telling Mr and Mrs Barnum’s love story. One does believe that they have a strong relationship, even if Barnum himself suffers a minor indiscretion partway through the plot.

The musical successfully recreates the feel and colour of traditional variety through the medium of choreography, a dazzling set and a strong soundtrack by Cy Coleman including Come Follow The Band, There’s A Sucker Born Ev’ry Minute and The Colours Of My Life and is enthralling family entertainment throughout.

Fun for all the family, Barnum undoubtedly is a hot contender for The Greatest Show On Earth, don’t miss it!

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