Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Barnum – Music by Cy Coleman, Lyrics by Michael Stewart, and Book by Mark Bramble

By Joe Straw

Little Angels

Little angels up on their toes
Doing that which was
a month ago.

Tumbling, juggling,
And jumping though hoops

Did you see the red nose
On that one
togged up
in boots?

The colors all-flying
With magical flair

Would make
a man named

if he
were there. 

I was a little intrigued by the idea that Barnum was playing in Long Beach.  Didn’t Jim Dale do this on Broadway and Michael Crawford in London? I was also intrigued that the cast was made up of children from the very young (8) to the very old (18).  What are these kids in Long Beach up to?

Go-Fame Youth Theatre Company presents Barnum – Music by Cy Coleman, Lyrics By Michael Stewart and Book by Mark Bramble at the University Theatre on the CSULB Campus and directed by Eaine Zofrea through Sunday July 17th at 2:00 pm.

There’s not a lot of theatre in Long Beach by children so filling that void is the Go-Fame Youth Theatre Company a non-profit organization dedicated to teaching children all aspects of visual and creative arts.  And for this particular production there is a lot to learn. has taken the challenge of a full-scale production of Barnum not because it is easy, but because it is challenging and fun. 

Success is measured in degrees and this production is one to make everyone proud. All should be pleased to put one more credit on a resume with, well let’s face it, probably little on it.  Still, all of them were as cute as  buttons and they all worked with extreme determination to put this on the boards.

There were some problems, but in the grand scheme of things, they were minor.  And, after all, we learn from our mistakes.

Just between you and me, there was a point in the show where the singers were perfect, the direction was grand, and everything thing seemed to go just right and it all jelled and it was a beautiful thing.  Those memories stay with you forever!

Barnum is a musical with many possibilities.  The director, Elaine Zofrea, could go countless ways with this production. But what is one to do when the cast members are children?  Immediately what comes to mind:  No high wire acts and no difficult acrobatics. So being creatively careful is the optimum word here.

Briefly, the story is about P.T. Barnum (Zachary Brackemyer) and his desire to fulfill his dream of doing “something” on a grand colorful scale. But, his dreams are hampered by  Chairy Barnum (Katherine Zofrea) his wife who wants him to get a job in a clock factory.

Barnum is not the only one with dreams.  Chairy has dreams of her own.  Not as colorful as Barnum but sees to it that Barnum pursues his colorful visions.   And she does this all with the toss of a coin. They are a partnership of dreams in the making. 

But despite’s life’s obstacles, Barnum rises above the conflict that comes into the tent of his own circus until he meets Bailey (Tommy Doughty).

Zachary Brackemyer did a creatively fine job as P.T. Barnum as well as Katherine Zofrea as Chairy.  Sophia Smith as Joice the 160 year-old woman had a very nice dance number.  (It’s a bit of humbug to believe that she was that age.  Okay maybe 103, tops.)  Coco Rominger was delightful as Jenny Lind.  Guy McEleney as General Tom Thumb had a very nice dance number topped off with an entrance by a huge elephant.  (A participant of the Eastman Kodak Float in the 1983 Rose Bowl Parade, I’m told.) 

Tommy Doughty played the Ringmaster and James A. Bailey. Doughty did a very nice job as Bailey and was completely believable.  His Ringmaster is the conscience on P.T. Barnum’s shoulder.  The Ringmaster is guiding Barnum to get where he needs to be at the end, with him and in the circus.  This is a fascinating role and one that can be creatively clever.

One of the fascinating things about the performance was the supporting players and the dialogue presented in Mark Bramble’s book.  The dialogue and intention was spot on and as natural as kids could be in these adult roles. Sam Albillo as Sherwood Stratton, Emily Henderson as Mrs. Stratton, Seth Weaver as Julius Goldschmidt and Noah Clay as Mr. Wilton all did a very good job.  Aurelio DeAnda, Jr. was quite clever as a clown and as Humbert Morrisey.

Both Emily Jackson and Aiyanna Johns were outstanding as a couple of jazz singers as part of the song Black and White that was a very interesting choice by the director on many levels.  Also, their facial expressions were quite clever.

Others that did nice jobs were: Victoria Zofrea as Mrs. Lyman, Cameron Gregory as Amos Scudder, Conner Clay as Charles Stratton, Kylee Cruz and Ashleigh Huntington as Women in the Emporium, Rylee Ashcraft as Concert Mistress, and Alex DeAnda as Edgar Templeton.

Other clowns in this cast of “hundreds” were Corey Bangi, Caiti Crahan, Maile DiPaolo, Skylar Peters, Aleena Searles, Lauren Smith and Sophia Spirus.

The featured jugglers were: Alyssa Haack and Kylie McGuire.

Other singers/dancers were:  Bradley Bangi, and Alexis Geiser.

Acrobats and Circus Stunts were performed by:  Peyton Carranza, Connor Clay, Preston Coulis, Jessica Hosler, Rio Infante, Zoe Infante, and Kate Riddle.

Circus Performers were:  Belle Haslam, Natalie Huerta, Cassandra Kline, Tori Newman, Kayla Quiroz and Claire Mitchell.

And of course we cannot forget the townspeople Kaylee Cruz and Paxton Hurst.  These are always necessary roles in a successful production.

Elaine Zofrea, the artistic director did a very fine job molding this troupe into a workable performance and also gave her own personal touch as the director.  And Kathy McGuire, as Managing Director, pulls this all together, almost an impossible task.

In the second cast Cody Wilhite plays P.T. Barnum, Alicia Allen plays Chairy Barnum, Brooke Johnson plays Jenny Lind, Rachel Dennison plays Joice Heth, and Autumn Johnson plays Tom Thumb.

The show carries on Saturday July 16th at 2pm and 7pm and Sunday July 17th at 2pm.

The photoghraphs are by Sheri McKinley! - watch kids grow and play - all in the same moment.

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