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Tuesday, March 9, 2010


This month's installment of Movies for Theatre Geeks is the 1986 filming of the musical Barnum in Manchester for BBC TV.
Generally, I find the filming stage productions a bit troublesome as an attempt to recreate the live experience. For example, live audiences can't zoom in or dolly left - at least not without aggravating their fellow patrons. In the case of Barnum, however, I will grant some leeway, since it is a show that is so rarely available to see live. The cast required to mount such a production is prohibitive for even the most financially healthy of regional theatres. It's not so much the size as it is the talent. Forget the triple threat, Barnum requires quadruple, quintuple, sextuple, etc. threats: singer/dancer/actors who are jugglers, acrobats, tightrope walkers, magicians, clowns, and more.
The chances are that, if you're going to get to see Barnum, it will be this version. (Rumored revivals with John Barrowman or Neil Patrick Harris are, as far as I'm aware, still rumors.)
And see Barnum you should.
Do you think that Cy Coleman was one of the best musical composers of Broadway? Well, I do, and Exhibit B of my argument (Exhibit A would be Sweet Charity) is his alternately moving and lively score that accompanies the story of the adult life of master showman Phineas Taylor Barnum.
This particular production of the show is a feast for both the ears and the eyes with impressive costumes, beautiful sets, and lots of elaborate acrobatics, choreography, and stunts - much of them performed by Crawford himself. (In preparation for the role, Crawford trained at the Big Apple Circus School in New York City.)
I enjoyed it. I think you will, too.
Come. Join the circus.

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