Brian Conley’s enthusiasm, talent and versatility ensures he is an ideal casting for the role of Phineas Taylor Barnum in Cameron Mackintosh’s touring production of Barnum.
Barnum not only became one of the most famous men in 19th century America but arguably the most inspiring figure in showbiz history on his journey to create the Greatest Show on Earth.
What a plot for a musical, and Conley more than fills the shoes of his predecessors Jim Dale and Michael Crawford as the show delighted Theatre Royal audiences. Let’s not waste words – he is superb from walking the tightrope to engaging fully with the audience.
If this show is about colour, spectacle and razzmatazz, there is emotion, too, and here Linzi Hateley matches Conley as Chairy, his wife, the rock upon which Barnum’s career grew. Their feisty but deeply loving relationship is only slightly dented by his affair with the Swedish nightingale Jenny Lind (Kimberly Blake). Then Conley excels in a deeply moving scene in which he demonstrates his anguish following Chairy’s death.
Add jugglers, tumblers and some dazzling circus acts and memorable Cy Coleman songs and you have the perfect evening. Come Follow the Band, indeed.
Barnum is at the Theatre Royal, until Saturday.