Barnum – July 2013

Experience: 8/10

Music by Cy Coleman, lyrics by Michael Stewart, book by Mark Bramble

With revisions by Cameron Mackintosh and Mark Bramble

Directed by Timothy Sheader

Chichester Festival Theatre in association with Cameron Mackintosh

Venue: Theatre In The Park

Date: Monday 29th July 2013

When we left this performance we were as one with our rating of the experience, but not for the usual reasons. Tonight things had gone wrong, and our enjoyment had been vastly improved as a result. Not the usual effect, but then this is theatre.

To begin with, this was our first visit to the Theatre In The Park, Chichester Festival Theatre’s temporary home while the main building, itself a ‘temporary’ venue, is given a large dose of TLC. The old dear doesn’t look well at the moment with the lettering removed and the boards up, but I’m sure she’ll be back in action next year as promised, and in much better shape.

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42nd Street – June 2010


Music by Harry Warren, lyrics by Al Dubin, book by Michael Stewart and Mark Bramble

Directed by Paul Kerryson

Venue: Chichester Festival Theatre

Date: Monday 28th June 2010

This was great fun. We may well have seen this before, and if so, I’d forgotten how much I enjoyed it. This was an excellent production, full of excellent performances, with a great set and costumes. The story is a bit of flim-flam, but with fantastic songs and great dancing, mostly my favourite tap as well, who cares?

The set did a star turn on its own. The back of the stage had a large art deco frame, with six moving panels making a sliding wall, which opened at the start to reveal the band – sorry, orchestra – snuggled into the space behind, giving the overture plenty of welly. At other times, the panels rotated to show a shiny side, giving a mirror effect which showed us ourselves. And a fine bunch we were too. We laughed out loud at many of the jokes, clapped long and hard at every opportunity, and many of us stayed behind for extra homework, or in this case, the post-show discussion.

Apart from the dancing panels, the stage was relatively free of clutter – great for dancing. The rehearsal piano lurked back left, there was the odd table or chair brought on, and they also used the central area with the swivelling trapdoors to bring up special sets, such as the dressing room and the bed for the dramatic shooting incident in the dance section. The rear panels were also used as a screen, where newspaper headlines about the Great Depression were shown during the opening to We’re In The Money, just in case the younger members of the audience didn’t know what was going on in the 1930s. Incidentally, I felt this version of We’re In The Money was a bit weak – it may come on for more practice, and one of the woman dancer’s coin hat fell off during the dance, which gave the impression that there’s a bit of work needed. (See also the post-show point below)

So we sat there, enjoyed the songs, loved the dancing, and laughed at the humour. What more could we ask for?

The post-show was enjoyable enough, but didn’t reveal much that was new. I did learn that the stage surface will need to be reworked, as the dancers kept slipping on it tonight. They have to paint it with something to make it right for tap dancing, apparently.

© 2010 Sheila Evans at