Barnum – Bristol Hippodrome REVIEW

Barnum promised itself to be an dazzling circus extravaganza. I wish I could say that it lived up to it’s expectations. Sir Cameron Mackintosh’s mediocre version of the iffy musical Barnum was, for me, entirely underwhelming.

After seeing productions such as Starlight Express and Lion King which are so visually captivating as well as quick paced and simple to understand, Barnum had a tough act to follow. One of the reasons why Barnum was a disappointment was as the “visual sensation” was surprisingly mundane in a variation of ways.

I did enjoy the few stunts which were performed, tumbling, silk work, tightrope walking and aerial work but on the whole I think because I had my expectations set so high it seemed a little bit of wow and a whole lot of average.

Brian Connolly starred as Barnum, the legendary showman, whose battle to have his circus dances in and out with the battle between his wife and mistress. Connolly has the whole audience in the palm of his hand throughout the entire performance and can produce a laugh, a cry or a standing ovation from a single glance. He outshone the dull performance he was immersed in with showmanship and energy, particularly with his literal as well as metaphorical tightrope act, which had everyone within a six mile radius holding their breath until he reached the other side.

The storyline plodded along at a lethargic pace, interspersed with upbeat numbers however these were immediately counteracted by the slow ballads which dragged the pace back down to 0 mph. The storyline was unnecessarily complicated and repetitive, involving mature worldly issues which may have helped with the context but did nothing for the performance overall, especially as there were a vast amount of children in the audience.

Whether you have an elder relation or not you would have undoubtedly fallen in love whilst simultaneously cracking up at Landi Oshinowo’s charismatic rendition of Joice Heth’s Thank God I’m Old. She tore the roof off the Hippodrome and had the whole audience crying with laughter. She really did lift the whole show with the funniest number of the night.

This musical wasn’t necessarily a bad production, just something that I won’t be seeing again. I had dragged my younger brother along and guaranteed him a spectacular show but by the end he was just vaguely annoyed I had put him through the mediocre performance, with fair and few ‘wow’ moments.

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