Theatre can inform, instruct and raise awareness but ultimately it’s all about entertaining the audience- and this is a production that does just that.
Even before the curtain rises, the actors are on top form; juggling, balancing on the backs of theatre seats and clambering up and down ropes.
Once West End star Brian Conley as P T Barnum struts onto the stage the fun begins anew. He has a natural rapport with the audience and he truly is a master of his profession. Dancing, singing and wise-cracking his way through two hours of a hugely enjoyable show – there’s absolutely nothing about his performance that gives cause for complaint. He even walks the high wire, eats fire and juggles – what a trooper.
Barnum celebrates the life of one of America’s first entrepreneurs who made and lost money on the toss of a coin. He revolutionised the world of entertainment during the 19th century and was responsible for introducing the world to such incredible phenomena as a 160-year-old woman and a real-life mermaid - of course it was all complete trickery, or ‘humbug’ as Barnum would say.
To his credit he did actually introduce Queen Victoria to Charles Stratton, better known as the 25-inch tall Tom Thumb and he brought the ‘Swedish Nightingale’, opera singer Jenny Lind over to America to tour, reputedly agreeing to pay her $1,000 a night for 150 nights.
Linzi Hateley is delightful as Barnum’s sweetly-supportive wife Chairy and Kimberley Blake shows off her beautiful soprano as Jenny Lind. The rest of the ensemble cast tumble, dance and sing their way through the show and it’s difficult to know where to look at times.
At Leeds Grand Theatre until April 25
0113 297 7040 www.leedsgrandtheatre.com