Barnum, Cultural Centre, Grand Theatre, until December 12. ROLL up, roll up! The big time musical has finally arrived in Hong Kong despite the sceptics and, yes, it looks like being a going concern. At the least, Barnum 's backers deserve a medal for bravery, but there is more than pioneering spirit in this razzle-dazzle show based on the life of that 19th century phenomenon, Phineas Taylor Barnum. Something of the huge excitement he created with his extravaganzas really does infect Barnum. And against the odds, that aura peculiar to the circus world is recreated in a conventional theatre. Not perfectly, of course. For one thing, the sawdust is missing. For another, Barnum's story, as super-glossed by Mark Bramble, makes for formidable pacing, but tends to the shallow and fragmented. Paul Nicholas, in the title role, gets the brunt of it, not that it appears to bother him. He revels in the physical challenges and opening night saw him in top form, though the unremitting show-pony act came perilously close to falling flat. Not until the second half of Barnum does something of the complexity of that larger-than-life character emerge. It makes for unexpectedly moving theatre. The credit belongs equally to Anne Wood whose warmly sympathetic Charity Barnum adds much-needed depth. Happily, the chemistry is right - never more so than when Nicholas and Wood perform that terrific tear-jerker The Colours Of My Mind. The music gets electrifying when Melanie Marshall holds centre-stage. What a fabulous voice and what a performer. Whether playing old Joice Heth or kicking up her heels, Marshall is a knockout. There are some rich highlights including real fireworks and Act Two's Black and White scene, but in true circus tradition, the big spectacle comes at the end. This is perfect family fare. Treat yourself and the kids.