Review Roundup: What Did Critics Think of BARNUM at Comedy Theatre?
From visionary director Tyran Parke, this new production will play an exclusive engagement at Melbourne's most intimate professional musical theatre venue, the Comedy Theatre.
Based on the life of P.T. Barnum, BARNUM is a colourful, dynamic spectacle with heart, where audiences shall witness the wonders of the world including Jumbo, the largest elephant, Joice Heth the oldest woman to ever live, a great white whale from Labrador, General Tom Thumb only twenty-five inches from toe to crown, and the rarest and most beautiful bird in captivity the Swedish soprano, Jenny Lind. Plus, a cast of hundreds, no thousands including marching bands, tumbling bands, flying bands, bands of every size shape and description!
This heart-warming and uplifting musical is a theatrical event for all generations, full of great music, circus, magic and comedy; not to mention Barnum's magnificent tight-rope scene. In collaboration with the National Institute of Circus Arts (NICA), the brand new Australian production is produced by StoreyBoard Entertainment bringing together some of the creative team from its critically acclaimed production Follies, In Concert.
Let's see what critics have to say...
Patricia Maunder, Lime Light Magazine: In the twee role of Barnum's practical but loving wife Charity, Rachael Beck delivers a solid vocal and dramatic performance, while Kirby Burgess is a slick, sultry stand-out in the much more exciting role of the ringmaster - as well as numerous other minor parts, for which she capably slips through various accents. Suzie Mathers, looking luminous in a mane of blonde ringlets, reveals a strong, sparkling soprano as Jenny Lind, and has fun with a faux Swedish accent.
Tim Byrne, Time Out: odd McKenney shines in a role that seems utterly tailored for him; he breaks the fourth-wall a lot early on, but his natural charm and winning presence could easily do without this scramble for likability. Given that he juggles, tumbles and, in one extraordinary moment, walks the tightrope, he could be forgiven for slacking off in quieter moments, but his commitment and vitality never waver. He has a couple of fiendish patter songs that he pulls off with ease and, while he's not a natural singer, makes the most of the central number, 'The Colours of My Life'. Rachel Beck is lovely in support as his long-harried wife, Charity, and together they build a touching portrait of a marriage of endurance.
Cameron Woodhead, The Sydney Morning Herald: Of course, McKenney is technically fabulous. He sings beautifully in the duets, dances with flair, has a cartoonish sort of accent that never falters, and he's even game for tightrope-walking without a net. He's got everything you could want - and more - except that elusive X-factor.
Simon Parris, Simon Parris Man in Chair: In this key ringmaster role, Parke is blessed to have the dazzling talent of Kirby Burgess. Looking spectacular in dark purple velvet with gold trim, Burgess gives her most memorable musical theatreperformance to date, incorporating aerial acrobatic stunts, myriad accents and physical characterisations, and dynamite vocals, all performed with highly polished flair. This breakout performance brings a high degree of anticipation towards Burgess' next stage appearance, whatever that might be.
Victoria Beal, BroadwayWorld: The ensemble is spectacular to watch throughout with some lovely engagement between them. The circus tricks and spectacles, directed by Zebastian Hunter, are a welcome distraction from the blurry narrative. The tumbling, climbing, jugging and balancing is woven seamlessly into the scene transitions and is a lovely mechanism to keep us rolling through the tale. Whilst restricted by the floor space available, they use the height well and there is plenty to look at, often sprucing up the choreography.