Director: Jean-Pierre van der Spuy
Music: Cy Colman
Lyrics: Michael Stewart
Writer: Mark Bramble
Reviewer: Sharon MacDonald-Armitage
When Phineas T. Barnum announces to the audience “this is the greatest show on earth” he was not far wrong. Southampton’s Mayflower was ringing out loud with the sounds of the circus as Barnum headed into town. Before the curtain rises the spectacle has already begun: jugglers, hoopla girls and unicycles are all mingling with the audience and members of the cast leap over seats while bantering with those sat around them.
By the time the curtain rises the audience are already in the mood for a show and what a show they get. If the word showman can be associated with anyone then surely it is Brian Conley. Full of life, pizzazz and trickery, Conley’s Phineas T. Barnum works the audience like a pro, his ‘There is a Sucker Born Ev’ry Minute’ and his ‘Museum Song’ have the audience laughing out loud. However, there are many poignant moments, particularly ‘The Colors of My Life’ which he sings alongside his wife Charity, played to perfection by Linzi Hateley. Hateley never hits a bad note nor does she put a foot wrong and both her and Conley make a formidable team. There are some funny moments and some tender moments between the two and it is wonderful to watch the direction their relationship takes throughout.
From start to finish this is a show full of excitement with gasps from the audience. Conley completes the sleight of hand tricks, twizzling of batons and spinning of hats as if he was born for this rôle. The moment everyone associates with the show; the high wire act, he completes with consummate ease and gains a round of applause from the audience.
There is a fabulous team of creatives clearly working hard on this show and it is evident in the set, costumes and choreography. Lone Schacksen and Scott Pask are responsible for the wonderful set. Wrought iron staircases twist and slide into position with an almost graceful industrial ease, tapping in on the traditional while also giving it a modern steam punk feel. Paul Wills evokes a similar feeling with his glorious costumes, where both muted and bright colours reflect the tone of the musical numbers. The opening presents us with traditional colours we associate with the circus. However, the monochrome ‘Black and White’ dance routine is suddenly filled with colour as Barnum moves from his sedate life back to the life he loves and feels at home in. The cast really do not stop, there is something happening all the time: acrobatics, ribbon twirling and fabulous dancing. Andrew Wright has choreographed some show stopping numbers; ‘One Brick at a Time’ has you wondering how it all comes together and ‘Come Follow the Band’ is so full of energy it is enthralling.
From start to finish this show has something for everyone and this Sir Cameron Mackintosh production is fast and slick. Go see this before the circus leaves town!
Tour Photo ¦ Runs at the Mayflower Southampton until 20th June 2015 then continues on tour