Theater Review: BARNUM (Musical Theatre Guild at the Alex Theatre in Glendale)

by Barry Creyton on September 26, 2019

in Theater-Los Angeles

Post image for Theater Review: BARNUM (Musical Theatre Guild at the Alex Theatre in Glendale)

I LIKE YOUR STYLE

P. T. Barnum claimed there’s a sucker born every minute, but composers like Cy Coleman come along only once in a lifetime. His vigorous score was in the capable hands of musical director Jan Roper for Musical Theatre Guild’s staged reading of Barnum at the Alex Theater.

Score, book and lyrics allude joyously to the mid-nineteenth-century period in a foot-tapping way that the recent movie The Greatest Showman bloody-mindedly avoided. But even though set, costumes and the elaborate circus set pieces could only be hinted at in this scaled-down version, Barnum the musical is far superior in every way to the anachronistic overkill of The Greatest Showman.

Director Alan Bailey and choreographer Cheryl Baxter maintained a steady pace aided by a sterling ensemble which allowed standouts for Regina LeVert (triumphing over a recalcitrant sound system), Kelley Dorney as icy diva Jenny Lind, Matthew Patrick Davis as a reluctant Tom Thumb, high-strutting Jeffrey Scott Parsons, Glenn Shiroma’s ebullient Ringmaster, Matt Braver changing hats frequently as owner of the ill fated American Museum and Lind’s manager, and Jasmine Ejan gloriously reminding us that Equity demands scripts in hands, as she glided by on roller skates.

A nice surprise was the entrance of a real marching band of all shapes and sizes, heavy on percussion and brass, urging us to “Come Follow the Band.”

Barnum himself is a difficult role to fill. It’s a star role in the truest sense of the term, demanding charisma, energy, and a force that beckons an audience to join him in his aspirations, and delight in his blatant scams. While Kirby Ward offered charm, his curious lack of familiarity with text and lyrics somewhat undermined the core of the piece. Balance was provided by Tracy Lore as Charity (“Chairy”), Barnum’s wife. Her warm, steady control of her scenes and vocals gave depth to the relationship and ultimately moved one to believe in both her character and that of Barnum.

Much praise to the Musical Theatre Guild for bringing these now seldom seen shows to life again.

photos by Ed Krieger

Barnum
Musical Theatre Guild
Alex Theatre | 216 Brand Blvd. in Glendale
played Sunday, September 22 at 8
for future events, call 818.243.2539 or visit MTG

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