Fairfield University presents Barnum Tonight! a bicentennial birthday celebration



Image: PT BarnumThe "king of hype," Phineas Taylor Barnum, known as the greatest showman that ever lived, comes back to life in a one-man tour de force staged reading of "Barnum Tonight!" starring Tom Zingarelli at Fairfield University's Quick Center for the Arts for two performances only, Sunday, August 15 at 4 p.m. and Saturday, August 21, at 8 p.m.  Admission is free with general seating. Voluntary contributions will be gratefully accepted and will benefit Conn.'s Beardsley Zoo, a nationally accredited facility dedicated to education, conservation and providing a quality family experience. For those who prefer VIP reserved seating (also free) or information, call the Quick Center Box Office at (203) 254-4010 or toll free at 1-877-ARTS-396.

Written by Leo B. Meyer and produced by Judith A. Abrams and LBM productions in association with Fairfield University's Quick Center for the Arts, "Barnum Tonight!" is directed by Carole Claps and tells the incomparably famous life story of America's second millionaire and marketing genius, P.T. Barnum. The famous quote, "There's a sucker born every minute" has been attributed to Barnum, but he was too shrewd a businessman to insult his ticket-buying public with this kind of remark according to Meyer.

A one-man show requires a strong actor, especially in a show like "Barnum Tonight!" where the character ages from his 20s to his 80s. Zingarelli fills the bill. Besides being the executive director of the Quick Center, Zingarelli has had a successful career as an actor in regional theater, as well as off and off-off Broadway. He has performed leading roles in diverse productions from "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead," to "Charley's Aunt." He was recently seen in "Art" at New Haven's Elm Shakespeare Company.

After hundreds of hours of research Meyer became so intrigued by Barnum that he wrote this play about the man who brought the world Tom Thumb, Jumbo the Elephant, Jenny Lind and, of course, "The Greatest Show on Earth, the Barnum and Bailey Circus."

"In writing this play, the biggest problem was deciding what to leave out," said Meyer, who doesn't think much of the Broadway musical "Barnum," adding, "It was a reckless treatment of the subject and had nothing to do with the truth."

A Conn. native, Zingarelli said, "Bridgeport's most famous citizen, Barnum, was such a complex, fascinating person and a hero of mine. He was not just a great promoter, but also a sophisticated, well-educated man who associated with the leading intellectuals of the day. He was regarded by all his associates as a kind, fair man with a great sense of humor. It was said that one could not come into his home unless they had three new jokes to tell him. He was a man totally in line with the era in which he lived - a perfect match. It's an honor to celebrate his 200th birthday by playing this role."

Before writing "Barnum Tonight!" Meyer had a successful career as a theatre scenic designer. His company, Atlas Scenic Studios, located in Bridgeport, Conn. where Barnum is a hero, created sets for numerous Broadway and off-Broadway shows and touring productions.

Abrams is a Tony® Award-winning producer for Broadway's "Spring Awakening," as well as the producer of the Broadway Pixie Judy Troupe. "P.T. Barnum was a genius and his story is amazing," said Abrams. "You don't just follow producing a show like "Spring Awakening" with just any production! 'Barnum Tonight!' tells a story of a man I admire, who knew how to combine show and business," she said. "Producers today are afraid to take chances. They don't promote outside the box. My method of producing has always been to combine marketing and promotion and I believe that if you are creative, you don't need to raise millions and millions of dollars to do it."

Barnum loved whatever the press said about him. "Abuse me, but don't ignore me," he said. "Barnum Tonight!" continues his challenge.

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Media Contact: Joan Grant, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2950, jgrant@fairfield.edu

Posted on July 13, 2010

Vol. 43, No. 6