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Spotlight Players Presents BARNUM Through April 28

Now on stage at Spotlight Players in Canton is the adorable musical BARNUM, a delightful play based on the life of showman P. T. Barnum. This man captivated the nation's attention, especially during the bleak and arduous years of the American Civil War; the musical covers the period from 1835 through 1880, both in America and major cities of the world where Barnum took his performing companies. His sidekick, Charles Sherwood Stratton, also known under the stage name General Tom Thumb, was a sensation in London, where Queen Victoria invited him to perform live at her palace, holding his hand and serving as his personal guide. BARNUM combines elements of traditional musical theater with the spectacle of the circus. The characters include jugglers, trapeze artists and clowns, as well as historical figures such as Jenny Lind and James Bailey.

Starring the beloved actor Leo Babcock as P. T. Barnum, the musical highlights his relationship with his wife Charity (Cathy McDonald of Plymouth) and motley crew of characters that would make him a household name, including Joice Heth (Tina Paraventi of Canton), General Tom Thumb (Jim Jackson of Westland), Jenny Lind (Rebecca Winder of Livonia), and James Bailey (Jeff Foust of Canton), with whom he eventually forms the famous Barnum and Bailey Circus. Babcock narrates the show, sharing with the audience a bit of his life story and the art of humbug, while a cast full of unicyclists, stilt-walkers, jugglers, tumblers, mimes and clowns create a spectacle.

This musical requires more than just singing talent to pull it off; Barnum also has to walk the tightrope and perform feats of acrobatic proportions. Fortunately, Babcock is in top physical condition. Unfortunately, real life gets in the way: Babcock reported, "My car was broken into after a rehearsal. They smashed a window, took my briefcase, check book , backpack and another shopping bag. I had props and costumes for Barnum stolen - nothing valuable to anyone else - just stuff I needed. But they left one clown shoe. So now I'll have to go searching a la Cinderella to find the culprit!" True to Barnum's spirit, "The show must go on!"

Babcock, an architect in Saline and veteran performer remarks that, "Of the one-hundred different shows I have performed in, Barnum ranks among my favorites. PT Barnum is truly a complex character: from a struggling showman to a successful entrepreneur, Barnum rides a roller coaster from financial ruin to fame and fortune. His zeal for life is so inspiring. It is a powerful and incredibly satisfying character to portray."

Jeff Foust, a full-time dad to a new baby boy, relates to Barnum on a personal level. Says Foust, "Barnum had a dream that didn't fit with the life everyone else was telling him to lead, but he never let those dreams go and even though he failed a few times, he persevered and created "The Greatest Show on Earth!" I have wanted to do this show since college and this is the first time I have seen a theatre produce it. I feel so lucky that it is being produced right in my own back yard!"

Cathy McDonald, a teacher in the Plymouth/Canton schools says, "It's really fun and exciting to be part of a show that not many people know, but those who do, love! I can't wait for those who are unfamiliar with Barnum to come and see why everyone loves it. It's got really great music, circus performers, and we have an incredibly talented cast!"

Tickets range from $13 to $16, and are available through The Cherry Hill Village Theater, by calling 734-394-5300, or by going to The Spotlight Players website: www.spotlightplayersmi.org.


Leo Babcock stars in BARNUM


Cathy McDonald of Plymouth and Leo Babcock of Saline


Queen Victoria and Tom Thumb coin

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