TV star Brian Conley on playing true character Barnum ahead of its stop at the Bristol Hippodrome

Brian Conley shares the secrets of Barnum's Big Top

Brian Conley will play the title role in Barnum at the Bristol Hippodrome

Barnum will be in Bristol from September 16 to 27

Barnum will be in Bristol from September 16 to 27

First published in Theatre Gazette Series: Photograph of the Author by , reporter covering Yate, Chipping Sodbury, Winterbourne, Frampton Cotterell, Rangeworthy, Wickwar, Hawkesbury, Iron Acton, Coalpit Heath and Old Sodbury

THE Big Top is coming to Bristol next month with Cameron Mackintosh’s production of the fun and thrilling musical Barnum.

Brian Conley, who has starred on stage and screen and is best known as Doug Digby in The Grimleys, plays the larger than life character of PT Barnum in this new touring show which visits the Bristol Hippodrome from September 16 to 27.

Speaking to the Gazette, Conley said he was thrilled to have been offered the role a year ago after Mackintosh’s reimagining of the musical was played to sell-out crowds at the Chichester Festival.

“I was delighted to be asked,” he said. “My name was being mentioned and I had just played Fagin for Cameron’s Oliver so it was pretty sweet to be asked.

“I agreed to do this a year ago, pretty much straight after it finished at Chichester, and it is a wonderful part and a huge challenge.

“PT Barnum was a huge icon in the US. He was the first man to really understand how advertising works and how to bring people in.

“It was really good to research him and is nice to know we are not making it up as we go along.”

The veteran Royal Variety Show performer and star of many of his own television shows, Conley said playing such a showman was not in total contrast to his own career.

“There are some similarities there,” he said. “I have some lovely moments to interject with the audience at the beginning of the show and that is nice to do.

“And there are some lovely songs that aren’t just there for the sake of it. They have really grown on me.”

But it is the death-defying tricks and stunts which audiences will be mesmerised by.

“It is a spectacle,” added Conley. “I do juggling and walking about on stilts but I am surrounded by such talent.

“It is not very often you get a company half made up of dancers and actors and the other half circus performers. It brings real energy and of course, with Cameron, everything is done to the highest level.

“You know you are going to a good show with him and since Chichester we have made it even more special.”

Cy Coleman’s score includes the hits Come Follow The Band, The Colours Of My Life and There Is A Sucker Born Ev’ry Minute.

The company of 24 actors and acrobats and an 11-piece band bring the magic and colour of the circus to Bristol from September 16 to 27. For tickets to Barnum starring Brian Conley and Linzi Hateley visit


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