“There’s a sucker born every minute,” or at least that’s what P.T. Barnum believed. The self-titled “Prince of Humbug” wasn’t satisfied with just putting on a show, he had to be put on a great show. That’s something the Cape Fear Regional Theatre seems to have in common with Barnum. The CFRT, in its production of Barnum, has pulled out all of the stops to pay homage to the greatest showman on earth.
    Since the CFRT announced its season, I have been looking forward to the opportunity to see this production. My excitement was, in part, sparked by that of Bo Thorp, the artistic director of the theatre. Thorp spoke with great animation of the show, and the gleam in her eye promised the show would be something not to miss. Thorp was right.
    {mosimage}The musical, which tells the story of the life of P.T. Barnum, is really a play within a circus. In each scene we get an inside look at the man, and then we get an up-close look at the spectacle he created, but more importantly, loved. And from the start of the show until the last bow of the cast, it’s a rollicking good time.
    Broadway and CFRT veteran Dirk Lumbard shines as the man himself. Lumbard, who played the role on Broadway, not only performs the lead role, he also directs the play. To say he’s breathless by the end of the show would be an understatement but he never slows down, and he never misses a beat. In this musical, he shines.
I’ve seen Lumbard in a couple of productions, and I have to say that to date, Barnum is his shining moment on the CFRT stage. Not that Lumbard wasn’t good in the other productions; they simply didn’t let his joy come through. I saw this from the opening notes of the production. He simply radiated joy, even in the more somber moments of the play. He captured the spark that drove Barnum to greater heights. Lumbard gave a dynamic performance in last year’s 12 Angry Men, but it didn’t truly highlight the true range of his talents. And, to my way of thinking really didn’t let us see his genius. Barnum is a horse of another color.
    Susan Cella, another Broadway performer, plays the perfect foil to Barnum, as she brings to life his straight-laced wife Chary Barnum. Cella’s resume is long, having played numerous roles on Broadway, traveled extensively with touring companies and having several television credits to her name. Chary Barnum was her husband’s conscience; you might say his north star. Cella does a fantastic job of fulfilling that role.
    Keri Burman, an Oklahoma native, played the role of Jenny Lind, an opera singer who caught Barnum’s eye for a while and brought a degree of respectability to Barnum’s shows, which were rife with bearded women, fat ladies and others more commonly referred to as sideshow freaks. Lind’s time on the stage was brief, but she added a lot of humor to the show. Her heavy accent and comedic delivery were spot on.
    Fayetteville resident Ken Griggs, serving as the ringmaster/narrator, also put in a solid performance. Griggs has been in numerous shows at the CFRT, and his presence on stage was nothing short of great. And, kudos to Ken, he spent weeks learning the numerous tricks of the trade including how to ride a unicycle, and after weeks of bumps and spills, he made it across the stage, reciting his lines without a fall.
    The tricks of the trade are also part of what made the show such a spectacle. The CFRT performers spent weeks learning circus skills like juggling, stilt-walking, tumbling and acrobatics in the Spanish webs. Their dedication to their craft resulted in a lot of bumps and bruises, but their hard work paid off in the performance.
    The talented cast danced, sang and tumbled their way right into the audience’s heart. So grab your family, grab your friends and head over to the circus. You’re going to love it.

Contact Janice Burton at editor@upandcomingweekly.com 

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