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P. T. Barnum Returns to North Salem

NORTH SALEM, N.Y. - The 1980 Broadway production of the musical, “Barnum,” was nominated for 18 theatrical awards and won five of them. It starred Jim Dale as Barnum and a newcomer named Glenn Close as his wife, Chairy.

“It was completely coincidental that I chose “Barnum” as this year’s musical,” said Doug Coates, music teacher at North Salem Middle/High School and director of the show. “I was in college during the original production. I saw the opening to the second act on the Tony Awards and decided I wanted to do it someday myself.”

Coates had a vague idea that there was some circus history in this area, but did not realize how deep the roots were. “Then Dr. Bovino showed me a history book about North Salem and there was a whole chapter on the circus.”

This weekend North Salem junior Caitlin Franze will be recreating the role of Mrs. Barnum. Caitlin has been singing since 6th grade and performed in her first musical in 8th grade. She also plays piano and guitar. “Multiple girls tried out, so I wasn’t sure if I got the part, but then I did,” she said. “Mrs. Barnum is a very grounded character. She’s sensible. He’s a dreamer. She keeps him in line.”

Fellow junior Austin Cutler will play P. T. Barnum. “The show is about Barnum’s life before he created the circus. All his past efforts. What he tried to do and what ultimately became the greatest show in earth,” Austin explained.

“It was not that hard to get the role,” he added. “Only two guys from the high school auditioned.” Austin has five solos. “I never sang before last year,” he said. “It took a really long time to learn all my lines because I’m in every scene.”

In addition to the two stars, the weekend production will have a cast of 49, ranging from 6th graders to 12th graders. “It’s unusual to have the middle school and the high school together in a play,” said director Coates. “But they’re wonderful. When I picked the show, kids came up to me and said, ‘I can juggle,’ and ‘I can do magic.’ Two girls learned how to walk on stilts.”

“‘Barnum’ is the brightest show we’ve ever done,” said Coates. “Our lighting guy has outdone himself. The set is minimal. The whole story is told in a circus tent. But it’s all about brightness and color.”

“Barnum” will be presented at North Salem Middle/High School on Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. There will be a matinee performance on Sunday at 2 p.m. Tickets are $10 per person. Call 914-669-5414.

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