Music by Cy Coleman
Lyrics by Michael Stewart
Book by Mark Bramble
Directed by L. Walter Stearns
Music Direction by Eugene Dizon
Choreography by Brenda Didier & Andrew Waters
Circus Choreography by Sylvia Hernandez-Distasi
At the Mercury Theater, Chicago
“Without promotion something terrible happens … nothing!”
“Every crowd has a silver lining.”
“Money is a terrible master but an excellent servant.”
“ ‘The public’ is a very strange animal, and although a good knowledge of human nature
will generally lead a caterer of amusement to hit the people right,
they are fickle and ofttimes perverse.”
“If I shoot at the sun I may hit a star.”
“There’s a sucker born every minute”
Extremely ambitious, extremely well-staged, and extremely entertaining Barnum is a “Must See” theatrical event.
Barnum ran two years on Broadway (1980-82) with music by Cy Coleman (Sweet Charity, City of Angels & Will Rogers Follies) Lyrics by Michael Stewart (Bye, Bye Birdie, Carnival & Hello Dolly!) and book by Mark Bramble (42nd Street). In the Mercury Theater production, director Walter Stearns as assembled a fabulous creative team and a terrific “A” list of Equity actors to make Barnum a true theatrical event. The score is a pastiche of toe-tapping marches, ballads, ragtime and Dixieland tunes with several circus-infused show stopping numbers designed to thrill audiences.
The key elements to making Barnum so appealing are the infusion of colorful costumes,designed by Carol J. Blanchard with the circus tent set design by Jacqueline and Richard Penrod and the tuneful orchestra directed by Eugen Dizon. Add the wildly playful an infusion of acrobatics, trapeze work, juggling and tumbling supervised by Sylvia Hernandez-DiStasi of Evanston’s Actor’s Gymnasium and Barnum unfolds as an eye-popping, toe-tapping and thoroughly entertaining musical spectacle. You’d be hard pressed to find a show that delivers as many thrills as Barnum.
Barnum features a top-drawer cast led by the super charming Gene Weygandt as the colorful impresario Phineas Taylor Barnum (PT) (1810-1891). Weygandt, best know for playing the Wizard in Wicked, brings charm, warmth and a bit of guile to Barnum – know as a humbug (a person or thing that tricks or deceives or talks or behaves in a way that is deceptive, dishonest, false, or insincere, often a hoax or in jest) artist. But in this musical we see Barnum as more of a dreamer and man of action with a competitive, yet loving relationship with his strong wife, Chairy ( the terrific Cory Goodrich). This bio musical is as much a glimpse into Barnum’s adventurous promotions that included the tale of the American Museum, the smallest man, the oldest woman, the largest elephant and various unique acts. Covering from 1835-80, we see Barnum’s relationship with his wife and his flirtatious relationship with Swedish opera state Jenny Lind ( Summer Naomi Smart) as well as his growth as an impresario and businessman through thrillingly staged songs with circus inspired movements.
Featuring an energetic cast ripe with circus antics, several amazingly stage numbers appear including Christian Libonati’s enthusiastic comic turn as Tom Thumb – the Smallest Man in the World in comic song “Bigger Isn’t Better.” Add hilarious variety acts, whimsical magic, and cute puppetry and Barnum is a treat that plays as a fine family show that children will enjoy.
The creatives at the Mercury Theater, led by the visionary Walter Stearns, have set the bar quite high with Barnum. They have succeeded in establishing themselves as producers of top quality theatre. Take your entire family to see Barnum, they’ll thank you. Barnum is one of the finest show mounted in Chicago in years!. Don’t miss it!
Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast
Date Reviewed: April 4, 2013
For more info checkout the Barnum page at theatreinchicago.com
At the Mercury Theatre, 3745 N. Southport, Chicago, IL, call 773-325-1700, www.mercurytheaterchicago.com, tickets 25 – $59, Wednesdays at 7:30 pm, Thursdays at 2 & 7:30 pm, Fridays at 8 pm, Saturdays at 2 & 8 pm, Sundays at 2 pm, running time is 2 hours, 15 minutes with intermission, through June 16, 2013