Barnum, Theatre in the Park, Chichester. August 2013.
Mr Norfolkbookworm and I had a new companion for our outing to Chichester this past weekend as we went with his aunt - who had also kindly treated us to the tickets as well.
I think that it is fair to say that this wasn't a musical that we'd probably have chosen to go to of our own choice, and that after reading some of the reviews and blog posts we were actually quite nervous about. It really seemed to be pushing us both out of our comfort zone, however our companion was very keen and waxed lyrical about the show so we went with open minds.
And very quickly had those minds blown.
Barnum isn't the strongest musical out there - the 'plot' is wafer thin and the songs not that memorable but thanks to the energy that the cast brought to the performance and sheer talent that the cast showed it was a delight from the metaphorical curtain up.
The musical is a version of P T Barnum's life as a showman, manager, politician and then showman again and as Mr Norfolkbookworm said afterwards it was like they'd actually trained a circus cast to act a little in support of the main roles for the rope work, juggling, tumbling and choreography was faultless and breath taking.
Circuses with animals and freak shows are pretty frowned upon now but the clever staging meant that no one was mocked and we were treated to theatrical humbug of the highest order! Who'd have thought that you really could get a elephant into the temporary tent theatre at Chichester so convincingly!
I can see that this may not be to everyone's taste - lets be honest I didn't think I'd enjoy it a fraction as much as I did but this is no turkey of a performance. As the theatre was full on the Saturday afternoon with people of all ages - all of whom had a smile on their faces as it ended - I'm pleased that people trust the CFT and aren't listening too much to the reviewers!
Chichester is a long way from Norwich so I don't know how often I'll make it back but from flicking through their brochure for the rest of the season there's already 2 things I am hoping will transfer or tour.
The theatre tent in the distance across the lovely park