Barnum review in Melbourne: Todd McKenney returns to the stage

Barnum Todd McKenney

In an age where flim-flam, fake new, and alternative facts are an unfortunate norm, it seems almost wrong to spend two hours watching a production about the originator of the concept. However, when the entertainment factor is as high as in the current production of Barnum – the Circus Musical then it is worth the cringe about the current state of affairs.

The title role of P.T. Barnum is traditionally the most pivotal role in this classic musical, Todd McKenney delivers a high energy, characterful, charismatic portrayal of the legendary Prince of humbug peppered with comedic asides to the audience unexpectedly breaking character for a laugh, though sometimes too frequently.

Rachel Beck as Charity Barnum provides great balance to McKenney and together they have a wonderful chemistry on stage, evident from having worked together numerous times, as far back as the 1987 production of Cats. As a pair, they shared some truly touching moments during their main duets: ‘The Colours of my Life’ and ‘I Like your Style’.

Yet, the surprise turn, and, in my eyes, the star of the show was Kirby Burgess as the Ringmaster. In a delightful gender-blind casting, Burgess commands the stage and effortlessly transforms into each of the historically significant characters that interact with Barnum’s story. Her brassy, soulful voice skilfully transforms with each new character.

It is a combination of these elements, including a stellar ensemble and some very talented circus performers, all brought together by the incredible set and costume design of Dann Barber, that brought this iconic story to life and make it a must see.

Barnum – the Circus Musical is running for a strictly limited season at The Comedy Theatre, Melbourne.