Saturday, Aug 18, 2018
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Music-Theater-Dance

'Barnum' promises a spectacle at Croswell

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    Joseph Ball plays the Ringmaster in the musical 'Barnum' at the Croswell Opera House.

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    Tessa Decker performs on the aerial hoop, with Arielle Osstifin in the foreground, in 'Barnum' at the Croswell Opera House.

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    Eric Parker, center, plays P.T. Barnum in the musical 'Barnum,' opening Friday at the Croswell Opera House in Adrian.

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    Eric Parker as P.T. Barnum introduces himself to Abby Dotz as Jenny Lind, the Swedish Nightingale, in the musical 'Barnum' at the Croswell Opera House.

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    Joseph Ball as the Ringmaster leads the company in a scene from the musical 'Barnum' at the Croswell Opera House.

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ADRIAN — The circus is coming to town in Adrian when Barnum the musical opens Friday at the Croswell Opera House.

The musical, based on the life of legendary circus entertainer P.T. Barnum and his 19th century circus, opens Friday and runs for two weekends.

The production will include such spectacles as acrobats, tumblers, jugglers, and more.

“Our tech crew has been working overtime to put everything from aerial silks to a giant fake elephant on stage,” said Jere Righter, the Croswell’s artistic director. “We have jugglers, gymnasts, and aerialists all working together to make this a spectacle that P.T. Barnum himself would be proud of.” There also will be entertainers in the lobby before the show.

“Barnum was a showman, larger than life,” said director Mark DiPietro. The musical touches on famous characters such as Jenny Lind, the “Swedish Nightingale,” an opera singer who toured with Barnum, and General Tom Thumb, whose real name was Charles Sherwood Stratton; Barnum billed him as  the world’s smallest man.

And there was Joice Heth, who was billed as 161 years old, the oldest living woman in the world. She didn’t sell tickets until Barnum created the fantasy that she was George Washington’s childhood nurse as well. 

“Barnum feels he’s just giving people what they want, and a good time,”  DiPietro said

But the heart of the story is his relationship with his true love, his wife, Charity, whom he called “Chairy.”

“It’s really quite lovely,” DiPietro said. “There are some very pretty songs in this show. It’s production number after production number, with a few ballads that are delightful.”

Barnum, which premiered on Broadway in 1980, has lyrics by Michael Stewart, music by Cy Coleman, and book by Mark Bramble.  It was nominated for Tony Awards for Best Musical, Best Book of a Musical, and Best Score. Numbers include “There is a Sucker Born Ev’ry Minute,” “Thank God I’m Old” sung by Joice Heth, “I Like Your Style” sung by Barnum and Charity, “The Colors of My Life,” “The Prince of Humbug,” and “One Brick at a Time.”

Adrian native Eric Parker, previously seen as Sam Phillips in Million Dollar Quartet, returns to his hometown stage, to portray P.T. Barnum. 

“He’s a salesman,” Parker said. “He’s a guy trying to sell excitement.” Near the end of the musical, Barnum goes off on a lecture tour to talk to the whole country about the noble art of “humbug.”

The core of the story, Parker adds, is that he wants to live a life of bright and vibrant color, a life of excitement, and his wife is of the opposite opinion; she likes the browns and grays.”

Barnum is a tight, entertaining story,” he added. “It’s going to be an interesting night at the theater. And [this is]  a chance to see a product of the late 1970s (it opened in 1980) you don’t get to see very often. It’s something different.”

The Croswell production has an orchestra and music direction by Jonathan Sills and choreography by Jessica Adams. Chloe Whiting-Stevenson is the circus arts instructor. The set is by Leo Babcock, and the costumes are by Emily Gifford.

The cast of 33 features Kyrie Bristle as Charity, and Abby Dotz as Jenny Lind. 

Rounding out the cast are Jacob Adams, Brenna Gifford, Emily Gifford, A.J. Howard, Lauren Howard, Emily Hribar, Alison Hunt, Lori MacDonald, Xavier Sarabia, Erin Warfield, and Ja’Vaughn White, all of Adrian; Elizabeth Higgins of Jackson; Tessa Decker, Carolyn Mohler, and Maria Portaro-Mohler, all of Lambertville; John Bacarella of Monroe; Walter Book of Petersburg, Mich.; Cordell Smith of Riga, Mich.; Audrey Bury of Rochester Hills, Mich.; Kyle Hauessler, Mark Hyre, Meg McNamee, Sarah Nowak, Arielle Osstifin, and Kaden Osstifin, all of Tecumseh; Joseph Ball of Perrysburg; Meg Grzeszcak of Sylvania; Toledoan Allyson Szymanski; Belle Johnson of Waterville, and Ryan Book of Woodville, Ohio.

Press materials note that “although P.T. Barnum’s life story was thrust back into the spotlight recently by the 2017 movie The Greatest Showman, the musical Barnum, which debuted on Broadway in 1980, differs from the film in several ways. The songs were written by Cy Coleman, who also composed the music for Sweet Charity, and Barnum’s children do not appear in the musical. But the broad strokes of Barnum’s life, including the building and destruction by fire of his museum in New York and his life touring the world, are the same.”

Performances are at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2:30 p.m. Sunday. Additional shows are 8 p.m. Aug. 16-18 and 2:30 p.m. Aug. 18-19. Tickets range from $15 to $35 and may be ordered at croswell.org.

Contact Sue Brickey at: sbrickey@theblade.com.

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