WHAT chirpy Michael Crawford did in Manchester three decades ago, Brian Conley is doing at Manchester today.
And it’s great that both achieved – ignoring a wobble or two – a perfect balance. A tight-rope balance, that is.
Big, brash, rip-roaringly exciting, Barnum is back and the circus-set musical bursts onto the stage, all lights flashing and all drums banging, It’s a perfect pre-festive treat.
There can’t be many unfamiliar with the life of Phineas T Barnum and his fantasies to create the biggest big top in the world.
From start to finish, this show pulsates with visual energy and enthusiasm. On occasions, so much is happening on stage, it becomes an amazing mesmerising experience.
Circus wise, what’s this show got? Truly, it’s got the lot. A magic mix of tumbling, high wire antics, jumpers and leapers.
The stage teems with colourful, fast-moving talent. As Barnum, the ever-popular Brian Conley, looking fit-as-a-flea, makes this show his own in an intoxicating portrayal which brought to life every aspect of the great circus icon.
This winking-eyed star quite literally had the audience eating out of his terrifically capable hands. Star quality – not half.
It’s true that in the middle of all this superbly entertaining mayhem, there are sad, quiet moments when reality invades the ring.
As Mr Barnham’s wife, Charity, Linzi Hateley, who this year made her New York debut with her one woman show, if wonderfully bossy, sweeping about the stage attempting to quell her other half’s out-of-control zestful enthusiasm.
In the end, Barnum is a team effort, and is one of the classiest musicals I’ve seen in a long time.
It’s on at Manchester Palace Theatre until November 15.