AMANA - Near the end of "Barnum," the main character describes himself as the Prince of Humbug and King of Hogwash, with "just a touch of white lie." Here's a line of truth: "Barnum" is one of the most wholly satisfying musicals the Old Creamery Theatre has produced.
The goofiness of the "Nunsense" and "Church Basement Ladies" franchises is tons of fun. But even better is seeing comedic champion Sean McCall flex his dramatic chops and rich baritone in the title role of the dreamer who would launch the Greatest Show on Earth and bring circus to the masses in the 1800s.
The show opened Thursday afternoon (9/10/15) to a small but appreciative audience, and continues through Sept. 27 on the main stage.
Having been in a full-blown production of this charming musical many moons ago, I was leery about how the Creamery could pull off Big Top splendor within the confines of a smaller stage and smaller cast. They pulled it off beautifully.
All 10 people in the cast are excellent singer/dancer/actors, and two in particular have glorious voices: Adelina Feldman-Schultz as the operatic "Swedish Nightingale" Jenny Lind, and Kristen Behrendt DeGrazia as Barnum's wife, Chairy.
DeGrazia brings such warmth and beauty to her lovely songs and Feldman-Schultz nearly shatters glass soaring to an impossibly high note as the operatic soprano. Their characters are polar opposites, with Lind oozing flirtatious glamour and Chairy Barnum striving to bring sense and sensibility to her marriage to a man whose head is always in the clouds.
The stage explodes with all the right colors and touches for circus tricks ranging from stilt walking and juggling to Travis Burbee shinnying up fabric strips to add jaw-dropping aerial acrobatics. Choreographer Keegan Christopher brings a new vibrancy to the vaudeville-style dance throughout the show, and gets to lace up his tap shoes to own the spotlight as Tom Thumb.
A special nod goes to Chela North, who brings buoyancy to the role of Joice Heth, "the world's oldest woman," singing and dancing much younger than her 160 years, then slipping easily into the bluesy belt of "Black and White" when Barnum tries to live an ordinary life devoid of the reds, greens and golds of his dreams.
Wrapped in a sparkling score full of depth and wonder by Cy Coleman and Michael Stewart, this winner of three 1980 Tony Awards will make you want to follow the band right over to Amana, to join the circus before it moves on.
WHERE: Old Creamery Theatre, 39 38th Ave., Amana
WHEN: Through Sept. 27; 2 p.m. Wednesdays, Thursdays, Sundays and 7:30 p.m. Fridays, Saturdays
TICKETS: $30 adults, $18.50 students, $12 student rush 30 minutes before showtime; Old Creamery Box Office, (319) 622-6262 Oldcreamery.com