With “The Greatest Showman” in theaters currently, there is some renewed interest in P.T. Barnum, the founder of Barnum’s Museum in New York City, and then, of course, the partner in Barnum and Bailey Circus.
The film, however, is hardly the first musical treatment of the man’s life. First, there was “Barnum,” a musical that enjoyed a healthy run on Broadway beginning in 1980. The original star of that show was Jim Dale, but a pop singer named Tony Orlando also had a successful run.
Orlando, still out there, plays Cache Creek on Saturday, back on a nightclub stage where he has always felt very comfortable ever since he and Dawn (Telma Hopkins and Joyce Vincent Wilson) scored big with songs like “Tie a Yellow Ribbon.” Gradually, the ladies were shunted more and more into the background and finally dispensed with altogether as Orlando became dominant.
Orlando has always been one of the most aggressive of entertainers. Audiences were rarely safe from becoming participants as he headed into the aisles, thrusting his microphone at nearly everyone.
His natural exuberance often led to excess, playing his shows overtime, leading an unprepared orchestra out into the room to play some Dixieland (once even into the men’s room, a gambit mercifully dropped in short order), making statements like “Help me, Jesus, to find a song to make the people happy” even though they seemed happy enough, and communicating with the late Bobby Darin with eyes raised to heaven.
Orlando never went just for the heart – he attacked the arteries.
He has undoubtedly learned some restraint over the years and there is no mistaking the fact that he has recorded some of the most famous earworm hits ever. Maybe this time around he’ll bring Barnum back, maybe not with the tightrope, clowns, banners and balloons he used on stage at Harrah’s Tahoe shortly after his Broadway stint, but that musical had good songs and Orlando did them justice. (7:30 p.m.; $39.65-$65; cachecreek.com)
The Little River Band managed to score 16 hits on its own in the 1980s while mostly touring with the likes of Fleetwood Mac, Supertramp, the Doobie Brothers, Heart, Boz Scaggs and the Eagles. They’re bringing many of them (“Cool Change,” “Reminiscing,” “Lady”) to Thunder Valley on Friday (7:30 p.m.; $49.95-$59.95; thundervalleyresort.com)
Lewis Black brings his “Rant, White, and Blue Tour” to the Grand Sierra in Reno on Saturday. Few other comedians have so mastered the art of looking like they may go into cardiac arrest any moment over something stupid a politician does or says. But Black is not all about politics; his story of playing the Mideast on a USO tour and having to follow Vince Gill should be toward the top of all best-ever comedy bits lists. (7:30 p.m.; $27-$60; grandsierraresort.com)
It’s been 20 years since Jim Breuer was on “Saturday Night Live” but he’s still doing stand-up. Of course, there are those out there who will never get his role in the stoner comedy “Half-Baked” completely out of their heads. He’s at Harrah’s Tahoe Saturday. (7:30 p.m.; $28-$33; Ticketmaster)