The Mercury Theatre of Chicago's new production of "Barnum," the musical inspired by the life of the world's greatest showman, is packed with every trick in the book. There are high-flying aerial stunts, stilt-walking, juggling and unicycling. And the central character is even proficient at sleight of hand-thanks to the help of a friendly Necromancer.
The Necromancer in question is Neil Tobin, primarily known to theatre audiences as the writer/performer behind "Supernatural Chicago," his acclaimed paranormally themed one-man show that blends stories of the city's paranormal past with interactive demonstrations of the magical and psychic; it's the longest running theatrical magic performance in the city's history. For "Barnum," he worked one-on-one with star Gene Weygandt to teach him a surprising number of dazzling effects.
"Gene has played the Wizard of Oz in the Broadway and Chicago Productions of 'Wicked,' but this is the first time he's ever been asked to perform magic," Tobin explains. "But when you see him in 'Barnum,' you'll think he's been at it his whole life. He's a natural!"
One of Weygandt's big musical numbers of the show is the stirring Cy Coleman ballad, "The Colors Of My Life." In it, Tobin choreographed a lyrical sequence for him containing nearly a dozen separate magical moments. "He produces a rainbow of silk scarves and flowers from thin air, plus other surprises I wouldn't want to ruin for you. It's all designed to help bring the audience into Barnum's world of colorful, magical dreams."
"Barnum" opens on Wednesday, March 27 and runs through June 16 at The Mercury Theatre, 3745 N. Southport, Chicago. Tickets are available in person at the theatre box office, at mercurytheatrechicago.com, or by calling 773-325-1700. "Supernatural Chicago" continues in an open run at Castle nightclub (formerly Excalibur), 632 N. Dearborn, Chicago. For tickets, visit SupernaturalChicago.com or call 800-979-3370.