Barrow’s Abbey Musical Society brought Barnum to the stage in 1994



Barrow’s Abbey Musical Society presented Barnum in 1994.

But when offered the chance to produce the hit West End musical the year before, it was a daunting prospect.

They would need a prominent man who could walk a tightrope, juggle, and perform magic tricks while playing and singing; another director who could ride a unicycle and a whole choir who could juggle, tumble, fly trapeze, perform stunts and do it all while they sang and danced.

Abbey’s musical director Noreen Steel said circus workshops with Howarth Wrightson’s in Manchester were held in June, July and August 1993, when the members were in the middle of their summer show.

“Local rider Gary Gifford helped us out and Betty Hardy, whose family did trapeze and acrobatics, stepped forward,” said Noreen.

“It was amazing how many people offered to help us.

“The show really seemed to have captured people’s imaginations. Someone even lent us a unicycle, saying they had it under the bed for ages.

“Julian Dixon, Julio the Clown from Dalton, helped out with the magic tricks and is now part of the business, and the girls at Furness Gym Club have spent a lot of hours tumbling and stunts.”

She said the members of the company rose to the challenge and mastered all kinds of skills, such as acrobatics, tumbling and juggling.

“We knew it would be a huge challenge, but our main concern was whether it was technically possible to host the show at Forum 28,” Noreen said.

“But the Forum staff were great. They’re really interested in the show as something different for Barrow and they’ve put a lot of work into it.”

Andrew Bond landed the role of PT Barnum. Dave Diggle was chosen at the Ringmaster and had to learn to ride a unicycle.


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