BARNUM the Circus Musical at the Comedy Theatre Melbourne
STEP RIGHT UP, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN and suspend your disbelief as we invite you to experience the greatest show on earth! Based on the life of Phineas Taylor Barnum, BARNUM The Circus Musical will show you every sight and wonder that name stands for.
Starring in this magical all-new production of the award-winning Broadway musical is Australia’s Greatest Showman Todd McKenney as P.T Barnum. Co-staring as devoted wife, Charity Barnum, is acclaimed stage and screen actor Rachael Beck.
With music by Cy Coleman (Sweet Charity) and Book by Mark Bramble (42nd Street) and lyrics by Michael Stewart (Hello Dolly!),, get ready to experience traditional musical theatre blended with real-life circus in a completely re-imagined production of this award-winning Broadway musical. Led by acclaimed Director Tyran Parke, together with Choreographer Kelly Aykers, Musical Director Stephen Gray and Circus Direction by Zebastian Hunter.
Carly spoke with actor Suzie Mathers about the life of Phineas Taylor Barnum, the magic of the circus, and why we should be seeing this show. Read the full interview below:
Many people will be familiar with Phineas Taylor Barnum and his story as a result of the 2017 hit film The Greatest Showman. Because of this, this is a three part question;
Firstly, when did you first learn of Barnum’s story – how were you first introduced to this great legacy of showmanship?
My first introduction to the world of Barnum was when I did a song from the show for a song and dance assessment at WAAPA many many moons ago. I loved ‘join the circus’ so much that I started looking into the show. Other than that I didn’t know much about Barnum’s life until I saw the Greatest Showman last year.
From that, do you feel that there is a certain amount of pressure on these characters due to the enormous success of the film and if so, how as a performer do you overcome that?
I think there is definitely greater public knowledge of the characters since the film and that does add another element of pressure for actors, but the musical is very different to the movie. As the Opera singer Jenny Lind I won’t be belting out ‘Never enough!’ but instead singing a beautiful opera aria called ‘Love makes such fools’. I think because of this, there is a little less pressure for us to be like the characters in the film and more freedom to make them our own.
And finally, why do you feel this is the perfect time for this story to come to Australia and delight Aussie audiences?
Off the back of the Greatest Showman there is a new interest in circus and Barnum’s story. It’s been a long time since it’s been seen on Australian shores, so to bring it back to a new audience is wonderful. Also, there is some incredible talent in this show - I am in such awe of or circus troupe and Aussie audiences need to see them in action!
You are taking on the stunning role of Jenny Lind ‘the most beautiful operatic voice to ever appear on stage.’ What have you learnt in the process of developing Lind as a character both about her and about yourself as a performer? What is it like to take on her songs too – I assume that they cross genres between musical theatre and opera – can you talk about the joys and challenges both of the sing within this show for you but also of your character.
I love playing this character. Over the last few years I have been singing in a much more contemporary style, so it’s been really lovely returning to my classical roots and having a nice big sing.
I think the most challenging thing has been training it back into my voice in such a short period of time, but I’m loving it! She’s very different to other characters I’m used to playing but I’m enjoying finding her warmth and depth - whilst learning a Swedish accent!
Barnum promises to be a true spectacle – what can audiences expect? What can they look forward to?
Spectacle indeed! A wonderful story, incredible music and singing, fabulous circus skills and wonderful dancing! A collaboration of so much talent.
And finally, Your career has seen you perform extensively in the UK and in Australia. What is it like being back in Australia to perform and what attracted you to Barnum? Why did this feel like the next step for you and what excites you most about this production?
I have been living and working in London for the last few years and have adored it. My time playing Glinda in the West End was a real highlight and I have loved the variety of work, but when our director Tyran approached me about the role I couldn’t resist the opportunity to come home for a bit and duck back into the theatre scene here. It’s a role I’ve always wanted to play and with such a fabulous cast I just had to say yes!
RAPID FIRE QUESTIONS:
Favourite production you have ever seen?
This is hard!!! I have a lot of favourites and get spoilt with incredible theatre in London all the time. But the thing I can’t stop listening to at the moment is Six - the musical!
You’re getting on a plane tomorrow and you can go anywhere in the world, where do you go?
Again, super tough. My partner and I have travelled a lot over the last few years, but I’d love to go back to Cassis in France.
Dream show to perform in?
Company - as Bobby
Plays or musicals?
A hobby you have beyond the theatre?
Travel and adventure.
What’s next for you after this show?
I’m getting married in a Château in South West France and I can’t wait!!!
BARNUM the Circus Musical opens at the Comedy Theatre in Melbourne on April 27 2019. You can get your tickets here.