Barnum – 1980
Phineas Taylor Barnum gave his name to a brand of flamboyant showmanship unequaled in the world. The musical follows his career from 1835, when he started his professional career as a brash promoter, to 1881, when, older and wiser, but no less confident in his unique promotional skills, he teamed with James A. Bailey to form a grander-than-life attraction – The Greatest Show On Earth. Act I “Barnum’s the name. P.T. Barnum. And I want to tell you that tonight you are going to see – bar none – every sight, wonder, and miracle that name stands for!” With this proclamation, the man in shirt sleeves enumerates the long list of wonders he has in store for his audience, “Jumbo, the Largest Elephant in the World; the Amazing Great White Whale from Labrador; General Tom Thumb, only 25 inches from toe to crown; Joice Heth, the Oldest Woman Alive; the Rarest and Most Beautiful Bird in Captivity; the Swedish Nightingale” – and he defends the “noble art of Humbug,” or selling something of no importance which everyone will buy, “because every sixty seconds in this world a delightful phenomenon takes place which absolutely guarantees it” – There Is A Sucker Born Ev’ry Minute. Intermittently, throughout the evening, instrumental “chases” set the stage. The first, “Humble Beginnings Chase,” finds Barnum as he signs up his first attraction, Joice Heth. To make her more interesting, he reasons that if she is as old as she pretends to be, she could well have been George Washington’s nurse. The gambit pays off, and her ensuing success gives Joice a reason to celebrate the fact that she is now 160 – Thank God I’m Old. But Barnum’s flights of humbug fancy don’t sit too well with his wife, Chairy. She would like to settle down, and would even see P.T. taking a position in Mr. Chauncy Jerome’s clock factory. But all he wants to do is “excite people, stir ’em up, give ’em a glimpse of the miracle” – The Colors Of My Life. Chairy shrugs off her disappointment, and joins “a Cascade, a Caravan, a Cornucopia, a Cavalcade – of Cataclysmically Comical Clowns” to help build Barnum’s American Museum, although she cautions him to move carefully – One Brick At A Time. At the inauguration, Barnum has every reason to feel he’s accomplished something – Museum Song. Years go by (Female Of The Species Chase), and while Barnum and his wife are better off financially, they are still at odds with each other, and still very much in love – I Like Your Style. When a fire destroys his museum, Barnum rebounds with greater energy, and signs his newest attraction – a diminutive boy, only twenty-five inches tall from head to toe, whom he immediately dubs General Tom Thumb. Taking a cue from P.T., the world’s smallest man launches into a bit of humbug of his own – Bigger Isn’t Better. Barnum’s success brings with it the need for a legitimate attraction: he sponsors the first American concert of soprano Jenny Lind, the Swedish Nightingale, at Castle Garden. Singing in Swedish, then in English, she conquers her audience . . . and Barnum – Love Makes Fools Of Us All. The singer’s concert is a prelude to a tour of the country, and when she asks P.T. to come along with her, he accepts, justifying his decision to leave Chairy by saying that “all my life I’ve been selling the dream to everybody else in the world. Isn’t it time I got a look at it myself? . . . I wanna see what’s going on inside the tent!” – Out There. Act II In true Barnum fashion, Jenny Lind’s first appearance in Washington, D.C. (also marking her fiftieth concert in America) is greeted with a musical ballyhoo, featuring the proud citizens of Washington and the Potomac Marching Band – Come Follow The Band. But Barnum realizes that Jenny is only a dream, and that he loves Chairy. He returns to her and she accepts to resume their marriage only if he banishes color from his life and takes a job in the clock factory – Black And White. More years elapse. Barnum is through with humbug, and is now considering a political career. But to win, he needs to revert to his old tactics, and begs Chairy to set him free to do so – The Colors Of My Life. Chairy, who is gravely ill, agrees to it in a last gesture of love, and Barnum is elected Mayor. Ultimately, Barnum realizes that politics are not for him, and that “at humbuggin’, I’m the best there is’” – The Prince Of Humbug. James A. Bailey, owner of a circus, also thinks so, and humbugs P.T. into forming a partnership that will see the creation of the “Greatest Show On Earth” – Join The Circus. “The Finale Chase”: As he reminisces about the extraordinary course his life has taken, Barnum also understands that “my kind of humbug’s disappeared . . . Pity.” – There Is A Sucker Born Ev’ry Minute.
Phineas Taylor Barnum: Jim Dale Chairy Barnum: Glenn Close Ringmaster/Julius Goldschmidt/James A. Bailey: William C. Witter Chester Lyman/Humber Morrissey: Terrence V. Mann Joice Heth: Terri White Amos Scudder/Edgar Templeton: Kelly Walters Lady Plate Balancer: Catherine Cox Lady Juggler: Barbara Nadel Chief Bricklayer: Edward T. Jacobs White-faced Clown: Andy Teirstein Sherwood Stratton: Dirk Lumbard Mrs. Sherwood Stratton: Sophie Schwab Tom Thumb: Leonard John Crofoot Susan B. Anthony: Karen Trott Jenny Lind: Marianne Tatum One-Man Band: Steven Michael Wilton: Bruce Robertson Lady Aerialist: Robbi Morgan Pre-Curtain Entertainers: Bradley Steven-Fields, Catherine Carr, Andy Teirstein, Bruce Robertson Pianists: Karen Gustafson, Peter Phillips Standbys and Understudies: Harvey Evans, Suellen Estey, Bruce Robertson, Dirk Lumbard, Terrence V. Mann, Mary Testa, Barbara Nadel, Edward T. Jacobs, Kelly Walters, Bradley Stevenson-Fields.