He'll get that chance this fall at Asolo Repertory Theatre in Sarasota, FL, where Gordon Greenberg will direct a refreshed revival of the show about the visionary who built famous, populist museums, imported Swedish nightingale Jenny Lind to the rough U.S., promoted outcasts and oddities like Gen. Tom Thumb, and eventually partnered in a circus venture that bears his name today. He is credited with the phrase, "There is a sucker born every minute," and was dubbed "the prince of humbug." Naturally, "Prince of Humbug" and "There Is a Sucker…" are two titles in the muscular, brassy score, which is packed with circus chases, patter songs, love duets and one delicate tune in Swedish, for Lind.
Barnum kicks off Asolo Rep's 50th anniversary season Nov. 15, after previews from Nov. 12. Joshua Rhodes will choreograph, with music direction by Helen Gregory, scenic design by Michael Schweikardt, costume design by Alejo Vietti and lighting design by Traci Klainer.
Asolo producing artisic director Michael Donald Edwards stated, "We are thrilled to bring back Gordon Greenberg and Josh Rhodes after the great success of Working. The entire Barnum creative team, along with our own world-class production staff and shops, will create an unbeatable partnership. I didn't think we could raise the bar any further, but we have. Now we have Brad Oscar cast in the lead role as P.T. Barnum, heading up a stellar ensemble. With the remarkable success of Asolo Rep's productions of A Tale of Two Cities and Working last season, the theatre community has become more aware than ever of what we are capable of here and the quality of our work. Audiences are about to experience the spectacle of Barnum with its colorful characters and wonderful music, combined with the brilliant talent of these artists."
This Barnum "also gives us the chance to explore Sarasota's rich circus history, forge new partnerships within the local and national arts communities, and create tremendous excitement about our future as we enter our 50th anniversary season."
Greenberg stated, "I have always been a great fan of Brad Oscar — both as a person and a performer. He was the first person that came to mind in casting the role of P.T. Barnum. We are so fortunate to be able to explore the show anew with such a profoundly talented actor. In many ways, Brad embodies the spirit of Barnum, a born showman with a rich imagination and a keen sense of the public's taste. Barnum was the father of modern advertising and a quintessential symbol of American values. From his humble beginnings in his father's dry goods store in Connecticut to his museums, shows and circus, Barnum was a visionary, bringing us the idea of theatre as family entertainment. This production aims to use the fertile mind and acute ambition of Barnum as fuel for his many successes as well as his personal challenges. It's an incredibly compelling — and all too relatable story, told in the most theatrical and entertaining way — just as Barnum himself would have wanted it!" Rehearsals begin in Florida on Oct. 14 with previews on November 12-14. Performances continue to Dec. 20.
Jim Dale won a Tony Award for his charismatic performance in the title role on Broadway. Michael Crawford played it in London (the performance was taped for broadcast). Glenn Close played Barnum's wife, Charity, opposite Dale, and both are preserved on the original cast album.
Barnum is set from 1835 through 1880, "all over America and the major capitals of the world. "
Here's how Asolo bills Barnum: "This Broadway hit sparkles with a cast of singers, actors, jugglers, clowns and tumblers! Phineas Taylor Barnum had the ability to create illusions and make fortunes at the same time. In this grand production, the worlds of musical theatre and circus fuse into a vibrant and entertaining musical celebrating the colorful, creative and driven life of the World's Greatest Showman, Phineas 'P.T.' Barnum. 'Come Follow the Band' and meet the extraordinary acts that led Barnum from humble beginnings to 'The Greatest Show on Earth.'"
The show was originally produced on the Broadway stage by Judy Gordon, Cy Coleman, Maurice and Lois F. Rosenfeld in association with Irwin Feld and Kenneth Feld. The musical has book by Mark Bramble, lyrics by Michael Stewart and music by Cy Coleman.
Oscar recently completed a run of The Mystery of Irma Vep at Arena Stage in his hometown of Washington, DC where he was also seen as the Master of Ceremonies in Cabaret and Mr. Applegate in Damn Yankees. He originated the role of Franz Liebkind in the Broadway production of The Producers and received a 2001 Tony nomination for his performance, and later went on to play the role of Max Bialystock over 1,200 times on Broadway, on tour, in London and in the Las Vegas production. Other Broadway and New York credits include Spamalot, the original casts of Jekyll & Hyde and Aspects of Love, Gerard Alessandrini's Forbidden Broadway, the Encores! Do Re Mi, as well as Santa in The Radio City Christmas Spectacular in Los Angeles and Branson.
Greenberg's recent directorial credits include Jacques Brel… (Zipper Theatre, Drama Desk, Drama League and Outer Critics Award nominations), Pirates! Or Gilbert and Sullivan Plunder'd (conceived with Nell Benjamin, Goodspeed & Paper Mill), Happy Days by Garry Marshall & Paul Williams (Goodspeed, Paper Mill, Boyett Theatricals, National Tour), Edges (Capital Rep, Off-Broadway in December 2008 at Urban Stages), The Baker's Wife (Paper Mill, Goodspeed), Cam Jansen (Lambs Theatre).
Barnum will play in the Mertz Theatre (5555 North Tamiami Trail in Sarasota, FL).
For more information, call (941) 351-8000 or (800) 361-8388 or visit www.asolo.org.