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Barnum?


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#1 Monteverdi

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Posted 16 July 2013 - 10:15 AM

surely someone has something to say about Barnum?

#2 jamescrispy94

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Posted 16 July 2013 - 11:47 AM

Hold your horses, Monteverdi! It only opened last night!

Noticed Chichester uploaded this video of Christopher and Tamsim giving a tour of the Theatre in the Park which shows some of the Barnum set.

#3 Pharaoh's number 2

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Posted 16 July 2013 - 11:48 AM

I'm there tomorrow evening so will file a comprehensive report by Thursday morning :)



#4 johng

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Posted 16 July 2013 - 03:51 PM

Attended the first preview last night.  Only my third musical and I went because it was £10 and I live in Chichester, but I have to say it was a thoroughly enjoyable evening.  The tent is very impressive and beautifully lit when leaving the site.

The place seemed to be completely full, and as it holds more than the normal auditorium that was a good omen.  Cameron Mackintosh and Jonathan Church gave a little spiel before the start, which was also delayed by the repair/replacement of a seat or two.

As a show Barnum has very little narrative and was really a series of staged songs, but it is spectacular and to me the singing and dancing seemed very polished, and I'm sure will only become more so over the next few shows.  The actor playing Barnum carries the show and as I only knew him from his role in the Pacino Merchant of Venice I was very impressed.

At the interval we all got a free drink and the location really came into it’s own on such a lovely evening.  I had worried there were too many Ladies loos but reasonable queues formed (I know it's a fundamental part of the female theatrical experience).  :)

I was sat to one side (seat B40) and the view was excellent, with a healthy rake to the seating, and the acoustics were better than for Kiss Me Kate last year.  Even during the main run this seat is only £16 and represents incredible value.

As a non fan of musicals I have just booked to see this again on 19th August, and I can pay it no higher compliment than that.

#5 Halpster

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Posted 16 July 2013 - 04:27 PM

spooky i am sitting in exactyl the same seat in august as well ! maybe i should leave a note for you taped under the seat to pick up on 19th !

#6 Pharaoh's number 2

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Posted 17 July 2013 - 10:13 PM

On the front of the programme, it says "Barnum, the greatest showman on earth". Well, not on this showing.

Sad to say this is a massive disappointment, but more importantly, a wasted opportunity. You have a top class creative team - Tim Sheader is one of the very best directors of musicals we have - and the most impressive venue (it's superbly equipped, and inside genuinely does feel like the Festival Theatre). But this production is underpowered in every way. It's not spectacular, there's little circus in it. I was hoping for acrobatics, flying trapeze, fire breathing, knife throwing, death defying acts of balance.... the lot. Instead we get someone singing whilst sitting on a static trapeze, a few people dangling off ropes and at the very end some (lame) fire baton twirling. There was more circus in Love Never Dies.

The stage often feels bare. Scott Pask's set is disappointingly simple.... it doesn't capture the magic of the circus. A couple of gold iron staircases and a red velvet curtain. It feels like Sir Cameron is saving his pennies for Miss Saigon. There is a clever moment with an elephant and playing with height, and some great costumes from Paul Wills, even if "Black and White" reminded me v strongly of Tim Sheader's own production of The Magistrate.  But it's far from a visual feast.

The other problem is the material itself. The songs are very strong (if lacking energy in the renditions they receive here), but the book is v weak, and so as a musical it's incoherent. It's a very broad brush portrayal of Barnum's life- it jumps about with very little in the way of plot or depth. Now I suspect a lavish circus bonanza of a show could help cover this, but as I've said above, we don't get that.

Christopher Fitzgerald still has work to do. When he's good, he's very good, but there were several notable line fluffs and he messed up the key moment of the night: despite three attempts, he couldn't walk the (not v high) tightrope. So Act 1's big finish was, well, non existent. Tamsin Carroll is endearing as his wife, and the ensemble are clearly working hard. But the production is lacking oomph, energy (and I say it again), circus spectacle. Even a non circus number such as One Brick At A Time, which is a great tune, feels so restrained.

It's not terrible, but it is a real letdown, especially with Chichester's reputation for musicals. When the venue is by far the best thing about a night at the theatre, you know something has gone amiss along the way.



#7 craftymiss

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Posted 17 July 2013 - 11:01 PM

Pharaoh's Number 2 I am in total agreement. I saw it last night. It was flat! I wanted WOW i got a damp squib. The performers looked nervous; bricks dropped, gags fell a little flat, Chairy got the biggest laugh over her double headed coin. There were some tech issues (only to be expected in a preview), mics dipped in and out at times.

I like Fitzgerald & Carroll together and I'm sure things will improve. I hated the Tom Thumb/elephant routine, I just found it so cheap and the fear on the face of the guards whilst balancing on stilts made me nervous. I thought the Black and White routine was the best but I'd not seen Sheader's "The Magistrate" as a point of ref.  Fitzgerald didn't manage the tightrope routine on the first attempt last night either. I actually just wanted him to get to the other side and for it to be over.  I did actually like him once he started singing the "Museum Song".  I also felt worried Carroll would fall off the 'plank' step when stood on the steps; seemed wobbly.

I also didn't enjoy the bit towards the end when the ensemble ran into the audience to do their rope routine, it was awkward to see what was happening (I was in row D though) and it all seemed breathless and rushed (not in a good way).  I think everyone was trying extremely hard, maybe too hard.  Everyone looked scared something would go wrong.

Set was incredibly cheap and when the biggest wow is the paper confetti that 'flies' out of the end of a twirled ribbon then that's a worry for a show that is supposed to be full of circus pizzaz, I got little feeling that it was about a circus. I've heard that this is suppose to transfer; best of luck with that one.

In short It was an OK pleasant evening, the tent was fab (although freezing as aircon must have been on max) but I'm in no rush to see it again.  I hope this gets better but without a huge improvement I fear it won't. I really wanted this to be good.

A cast member tweeted today that they'd made even more changes to the show today. Maybe someone who went tonight might have had a better evening.

On a different note, I saw 4 different members of the audience and 1 performer stumble and fall up the steps. With 2 of the audience members they really fell with a bang (drinks everywhere). I was on an aisle seat & noticed there is a bit of a 'lip' on the stairs so wondered if it was causing problems. Troublesome as lots of rushing around on & off stage via these steps.

#8 MS1995

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Posted 17 July 2013 - 11:23 PM

Have they got trained actors in the ensemble or circus performers, as I believe pippin had a perfect mix of the two, so the dance numbers looked fab, but death defying circus tricks could still be pulled off, although I imagine that is pricey, so maybe this revival had a restricted budget?
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#9 Honoured Guest

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Posted 17 July 2013 - 11:45 PM

There's so much good circus theatre around nowadays that this musical was always going to disappoint in that respect. And we already knew that the "material", to echo Ph#2's tactful term, is utter tosh. Still, I agree that the creative team were expected to refresh Barnum and make an entertaining show. Thanks for the warnings, guys.

#10 mallardo

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Posted 17 July 2013 - 11:53 PM

Well, the material is not "tosh" or whatever, Cy Coleman's score is one of his best and the show can work well when done proficiently - I've seen it.  

But, really, if Christopher Fitzgerald can't walk a tightrope why is the bit still in the show?  I know Jim Dale did it in the original but, guys, spare yourselves and your star the embarrassment!
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