By Lia Cocks
March Productions debut musical offering, Barnum, is a night of triumph, energy and monumental talent.
With a perfectly simple, but effective set we are transported to the 1800s, where Anna and Amy Beecher take us on a historical journey with pictures and artefacts of Barnum’s life as we take our seats. P.T Barnum truly was an intriguing man, with a knack for promotion and humbug.
This sets the scene for the extravaganza we are about to experience. Our first introduction to Barnum is him running through the audience with gusto, to end up on stage and immediately breaking the 4th wall to narrate his story.
I am instantly drawn into Jayden Prelc’s portrayal of Barnum - charismatic, magnetic, dynamic, not to mention his natural comedic timing and prodigious voice. He navigated the wordy script and musical numbers with such relish. A true and rare performer of his age, I anticipate a professional career in his near future. Watch this space.
His Charity Barnum, played by Alana Iannace, was sublime. She had steely strength and independence, but quietly confident of her Barnum. Deciding their life path on a flip of a coin, that always landed her way. We later learn she humbugged him good and proper, as her coin had two heads. Her voice and tone was superlative and her presence on stage captivating.
These two leads had the most enthralling partnership - a genuine connection and maturity in their performance you actually believed they were an old married couple. Excellent casting choice by the production team, well done.
Other notable performances by Paige Tran as the ‘160 year old’ Joice Heth, Oscar Bridges as Tom Thumb, Taylor Tran as the Blues Singer, and especially Georgie Raft as Jenny Lind - a 14 year old opera virtuoso. Incredible.
The musical numbers were colourful and bright (except in the case of the number ‘Black and White’) and showcased the talents of the ensemble; their acting prowess, harmonious singing, jovial onstage banter and dance and circus skills. Accolades to Nina Richards and her choreography to make her cast shine.
Sitting in the audience, I felt the orchestra was huge team of musicians to bring these euphonious numbers to life. I was astounded to discover only 12 people made up the Barnum Circus Band. And what a band they were! Conducted by the lyrical Mark DeLaine, they really escalated the musical experience ten fold.
Michelle Davy really should be commended for bringing to life this oddity of a story with such a young cast. A rare feat, as throughout I completely forgot I was watching a youth theatre production. And let it be known, this was not a junior interpretation, but the full length version adult companies also commision.
I utterly loved the storytelling, got completely lost in the magic of the circus and fell for the holy humbug that is P.T Barnum.
I cannot wait to see what March Productions has in store for Adelaide audiences next.
All opinions and thoughts expressed within reviews on Theatre Travels are those of the writer and not of the company at large.