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a Musical Comedy
by Mark Bramble (book), Cy Coleman (music), and Michael Stewart (lyrics)

COMPANY : Atlanta Lyric Theatre
VENUE : Jennie T. Anderson Theatre-Cobb Civic Center [WEBSITE]
ID# 4742

SHOWING : June 12, 2015 - June 28, 2015



The Lyric proudly presents this exhilarating musical following the irrepressible imagination and dreams of Phineas T. Barnum, America’s greatest showman. The story of his life and his marriage to Chairy reveals a couple who looked at the world from opposite sides of the spectrum, and also reveals that she was the practical one who made Barnum’s dreams come true. The production follows the legendary showman’s life under the big top as he finally teamed up with J. A. Bailey to create Barnum and Bailey’s Circus – the Greatest Show on Earth! Cy Coleman’s wonderfully exuberant score includes the hits “Come Follow The Band,” “The Colors Of My Life,” and “There’s A Sucker Born Ev’ry Minute.” Barnum was a smash hit when it opened on Broadway in 1980. Starring Glenn Close and Jim Dale, it won three Tony Awards and a Drama Desk Award.

Music Director BJ Brown
Director Alan Kilpatrick
Jenny Lind Emily Budd
Phineas Taylor Barnum Logan Denninghoff
Joice Heth/Ensemble Kenya Hamilton
Ringmaster/James Bailey/Ensemble Andrew Klopach
Amos Scudder/Ensemble Nathan Lubeck
Ensemble Jen MacQueen
Charity (Chairy) Barnum Lisa Manuli
General Tom Thumb/Ensemble Austin Tijerina
Click to Submit Cast & Crew Info for this production


A Total Circus
by playgoer
Monday, June 22, 2015
"Barnum" contains a sparkling show-biz score by Cy Coleman (music) and Michael Stewart (lyrics). Atlanta Lyric Theatre marries this score to an action-packed, circus-themed production. As always, the production displays excellent musicality (music direction by BJ Brown), energetic choreography (by Jen MacQueen), and a workable set (design by Lee Shiver-Cerone, with scenic artist Edward R. Cox). Overall, though, it’s a bit of a disappointment.

Bobby Johnston’s sound design mixes the orchestra to overpower the voices. I lost the ability to comprehend what the Ringmaster (AJ Klopach) was saying every time the orchestra started up under him. That reduces the enjoyability of the production. While the visual spectacle is certainly appealing, it should be matched by vocal appeal. The blasted sound limits that appeal.

The ensemble seem to have been selected based on circus skills. The tumbling and juggling and acrobatics they do certainly show off their talents. The acting segments, not so much. Of the ensemble, I was most impressed by recent high school graduate Crawford Horton and by choreographer Jen MacQueen (watch for her splendid Cyr wheel spin at the end). Their singing voices are fine, but a lot of their silent slapstick falls a little flat.

The leads seem to have been selected based on their vocal skills. Logan Denninghoff certainly has a splendid voice as P.T. Barnum, but he seems a little young for the role, not really digging deep into the character. His circus skills are only okay at best. Lisa Manuli is appealing as wife Chairy Barnum, nailing her acting scenes, but sounding a bit brassy and belt-y in her musical numbers. Emily Budd, as Jenny Lind, has a soaringly beautiful voice, splendidly attractive looks, and wonderful stage presence, not to mention nailing the comedy of her English lesson as the Swedish Nightingale.

George Deavours’ wigs and Amanda Edgerton’s costumes help ensure that the production looks good from start to finish. Projections work well when showing historical personages and buildings, but fall a little short in "The Colors of My Life," where the screen-saver-like projections don’t coordinate at all with the lyrics.

Director Alan Kilpatrick hasn’t harnessed another Cy Coleman score to create a theatrical triumph like the Lyric’s "The Will Rogers Follies" from a few years back. Blocking is generally fine, although a big opportunity for stage magic is missed when a woman is locked in a trunk, placed on a carriage whose underside can’t really be seen, then emerges later from the same trunk, when a similarly sized trunk is also present on the carriage. A little more emphasis on theatrical sleight-of-hand ("humbug," if you will) might have served the show better than a surfeit of circus skills (with silk work and lighted umbrellas appearing particularly extraneous). [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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