Barnum

For a youth theatre troupe, Barnum seems an intimidatingly large production. The sheer amount of different skills required, from tumbling, acrobatics, acrobalance and juggling to the vocal range and technical ability required from each of the lead roles seem to make it something best left to professionals. Forth Children’s Theatrehowever pull the entire show off with such incredible aplomb that you would be forgiven for mistaking it for a professional production.

The cast rose phenomenally to the challenge of the circus skills as well as the dance skills required to put on this show.

Barnum follows the life and times of P.T. Barnum, the greatest showman on earth and one half of Barnum and Bailey’s famous circus. The moment Charlie West’s P.T Barnum takes to the stage he holds the audience in the palm of his hand, becoming the complete embodiment of the character, something so rarely seen in youth theatre. From then on each of the characters who join him on stage continue to shine equally as bright, from Esther Scott’s Charity Barnum to Ronan Rafferty’s Ring Master and Harmony Rose-Bremner’s Jenny Lind, each cast member delivers a performance above and beyond what would be expected of a youth cast.

It isn’t just the leads that hold their own: the consummate professionalism of each member of the ensemble is also noteworthy. Clear and considered direction has obviously gone in to each number the cast were involved in, for which Cameron Dyer should be highly commended. The choreography by Sophie Williams is also excellent, and the cast rose phenomenally to the challenge of the circus skills as well as the dance skills required to put on this show. Join the Circus in the final act is a perfect show of just exactly how well trained, skilled, and just plain talented every member of this cast is and made the hairs on my arms stand on end. Special mention should also go to Gus Harrower, who stole the second half with his rendition of Black and White in a voice that can only be described as chocolate velvet.

Musically the orchestra matched the cast in talent and skill, with sensitive playing and excellent timing and again exceeding the expectations of a (predominantly) youth orchestra. The only place in which this musical fell short of five stars was the amount of technical hitches, which to me seemed like they should have been ironed out by this performance. There were a few too many incidences of feedback between mics and the sound mix was really off in the second half, causing the orchestra to overpower the lead voices. It should be noted that the cast dealt with these in a mature and professional manner, minimising the impact on the show, and it was very easy to jump back in and become enraptured with the story once more.  

Reviews by Tuesday McPhail

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Performances

Location

The Blurb

After 36 years on the Fringe, this multi award-winning company is back! Forth Children's Theatre is ready to astound, astonish and amaze you with Barnum – the greatest showman on earth. This high-energy musical follows the life of P.T. Barnum and his many adventures to gather acts for his famous American museum. So step right up and join the circus for a musical night you will never forget. ‘Skilful, energetic and packing a real emotional punch, Forth Children’s Theatre’s Les Misérables is as impressive a musical production as you are likely to see’ ***** (AllEdinburghTheatre.com, 2014).