Come Follow The Band as Barnum set for big top revival

Barnum. Christopher Fitzgerald (Barnum) and Tamsin Carroll (Chairy) in rehearsal. Photo by Johan Persson.
Barnum. Christopher Fitzgerald (Barnum) and Tamsin Carroll (Chairy) in rehearsal. Photo by Johan Persson.

Strike Up The Band because the theatrical highlight of 2013 is set to showcase under a £800,000 big top next week.

Barnum, which I remember seeing the first time around with Michael Crawford in the West End lead, is being revived at Chichester Festival Theatre by the ringmaster of British theatre, Cameron Mackintosh.

It’s being performed in a state-of-the-art marquee that will seat 1,400 people while CFT undergoes a major £22m refubishment.

The revised version of this spectacular circus musical (courtesy of Mackintosh and Mark Bramble) will be running until August 31.

Rising Broadway star Christopher Fitzgerald takes the title role alongside the award-winning Tamsin Carroll as Barnum’s wife, Chairy, Aretha Ayeh as Joice Heath, Anna O’Byrne as Jenny Lind, and Jack North as Tom Thumb.

Jonathan Church, CFT artistic director, said: “At the point that the redevelopment was given the go-ahead we had already been discussing with Cameron Mackintosh

the idea of taking a completely new look at Barnum in Chichester.

“The news that we were going to move out of the theatre and create a temporary performance space led to an even more perfect possibility – Barnum in a tent! We are obviously thrilled by the prospect of this production for our audiences and to be working with Cameron Mackintosh, Timothy Sheader and a wonderful cast led by Christopher Fitzgerald and Tamsin Carroll on this exciting adventure.”

Co-producer Cameron Mackintosh said: “Listening to the Barnum score, by chance, about eight years ago, I was again attracted to its dynamic personal story, the infectious rousing score and universal timelessness.

“I realised that the true heart of the story is the relationship between Barnum and his wife, Chairy, a couple that needed each other. Sadly, by this

time, Cy Coleman and Michael Stewart, the writers of the original music and lyrics were dead.

“However, the book’s author, Mark Bramble, who I’ve known for many years, was very much alive. He was eager to collaborate on rebuilding a new version of the show with a considerably reconstructed score.

“I am thrilled that we have found an American, Christopher Fitzgerald, a Tony-nominated actor whose reputation is poised to explode at exactly the same time in his theatrical career as Jim Dale’s did when Barnum first opened on Broadway. I am also delighted that Jonathan Church’s charming nagging and personal enthusiasm for Barnum over the years has helped to bring this project to fruition.”

This exhilarating musical follows the irrepressible imagination and dreams of Phineas T Barnum, America’s Greatest Showman. The production follows the legendary showman’s life as he lit up the world with the colour, warmth and excitement of his imagination and finally teamed up with J A Bailey to create Barnum and Bailey’s Circus – the Greatest Show on Earth.

When Barnum opened at the London Palladium in 1981 Michael Crawford took the lead, winning an Olivier Award for his performance.

Barum is a must for theatre fans and what better way of seeing it than under canvas in Chichester, one of the country’s flagship theatres?

To book tickets go online, www.cft.org.uk or call the box office on 01243 781312.