REVIEW: Barnum; Basics Junior Theatre School

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A confetti burst of hopes and dreams dazzled audiences on the opening night of Barnum on Tuesday.

Basics Junior Theatre School, whose members are no more than 19 years-old, has built a well-deserved reputation of rivalling professional companies with its stunning shows.

Reuben Khan and the Basics cast pulling out all the tricks in circus musical, Barnum, taken by Gilly Fontaine-Grist.

Reuben Khan and the Basics cast pulling out all the tricks in circus musical, Barnum, taken by Gilly Fontaine-Grist.

And its staging of musical Barnum - a merry-go-round of colour, talent and inspiration - was no different.

This unique production tells of the life and marriage of Phineas Taylor Barnum, America’s greatest showman and cofounder of the famous Barnum & Bailey circus.

Taking the lead role was 17 year-old Reuben Khan. Such was his confidence and talent, he performed as if he was a 20-odd year-old actor masquerading in teenage skin, with a decade-long career in musical theatre already behind him.

The same can be said of leading lady, Anna Hunt. At just 15 years-old, the actress has a powerful set of pipes and the stage presence of a professional.

I don’t envy Basics ringmaster, AKA Andy Cooke: with all this talent on stage, I can’t imagine it was an easy job picking just two leads. With their vocal prowess and dynamic acting, any one of the supporting principals could have given Reuben and Anna a run for their money.

Kudos therefore go to: Millie Green; Aaron George; Ellie Cook; Oliver Driver; Toby Cooke; Charles Goodwill; Robbie Wallwork; Alice Watson; Aaron Hipgrave-Lewis; Jackson Palmer; and Olivia Wright.

And for helping their voices soar, thanks go to Musical Director Andrew Mitchell, who clearly worked the youngsters hard. And let’s not forget the fabulous orchestra, and the production team for its vibrant set.

As if that wasn’t enough, an ensemble of dancers, singers and acrobats blazed across the stage like cannonballs of confetti. Director Richard Sanderson and Choreographer Helen Cheung pulled all the tricks out of their hats, with clowns, beefeaters, juggling, aerial stunts, plate-spinning and even stilt-walkers.

There were a few hiccups on the night but it’s nothing considering the professionalism and confidence on stage - it’s easy to forget many of the cast members are still at school.

And while it’s a cliché to call a show a roller coaster of an evening, Basics is this week breathing new life into the phrase. After all, the cast took us to uncharted heights - and the view was mesmerising.

But don’t take my word for it; see the fun unfold for yourself by catching a performance tonight, tomorrow or on Saturday at the Pendle Hippodrome Theatre, Colne, at 7-30pm. The Saturday matinee starts at 2pm.

Book on 01282 863210.

Photos by Gilly Fontaine-Grist and Pendle Live News (Andy Ford)