Review: Barnum at Nottingham Theatre Royal

It was over three decades ago when I first saw Barnum on the West End stage.

We were visiting London on a family trip to show my sister’s German pen-friend around the capital.

Even though I was very young, I can remember this show because of the impact of its star at the time - Michael Crawford.

It was after Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em but before Phantom fame and definitely left a lasting impression on me as I held my breath as he traversed over the tightrope high above my head.

Now I don’t know whether time has altered my perception or whether health and safety officials have waved their red flags, but in this latest production, the height of the tightrope didn’t appear quite so death-defying.

But the impact of the leading man has been maintained as the years have flown by.

As Barnum hit the Nottingham stage with Brian Conley in the title role, I wasn’t even sure it was the TV star to start with. I even feared it was understudy night.

Not because the acting was second rate but because I didn’t recognise his voice because of the strength of the American accent.

But the cheeky, Cockney charm was soon evident as he took us on Barnum’s journey through vaudeville and the Greatest Show on Earth.

Overall it was a terrific show of uplifting enthusiasm from all the cast. It had a fabulous mix of entertainment and drama, song and dance from a well-suited cast that commanded attention of the ‘suckers’ in the seats.

Barnum is running at Nottingham Theatre Royal until Saturday, February 14, 2015.

JACKIE DERBYSHIRE