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Posts Tagged ‘Craig Adams’

This isn’t the first musical adaptation of Emil Zola’s late 19th century book / play. There have been two operas and one musical (by Harry Connick Junior!) before it. Though billed as a musical, this one’s a touch operatic, occupying the space between. It’s highly original and very inventive and Craig Adams’ music is very challenging, but maybe too ambitious.

Therese, in the care of her aunt since childhood, is in a loveless marriage to her first cousin Camille and running a business with her aunt. She begins a passionate affair with Camille’s best friend Laurent. When it becomes difficult to continue their afternoon meetings, their solution is to drown Camille in the Seine. After an appropriate period of mourning, at the suggestion of her aunt, Therese marries Laurent. The trouble is, Camille haunts them both and the relationship deteriorates until another tragic solution is found.

I loved Laura Cordery’s dolls house set, which transforms into haberdashers shop, bedroom and drawing room. Nona Sheppard’s staging is clever and highly effective, particularly the weekly domino evenings, Therese & Laurent’s moments of passion and fighting and the hauntings. Julie Atherton is excellent as the melancholic Therese, though she’s virtually mute for the first 45 minutes, Ben Lewis is great as Laurant, commanding in both voice and presence and Jeremy Legat convinces as both Camille and his ghost! I liked Tara Hugo’s characterisation of the aunt, but she struggled with the vocal demands of this complex score (though I think some of the discordant vocal hysterics were intentional), particularly in a long and pivotal second half scene where she appeared to lose her way. It’s a very good supporting ensemble; I particularly liked the chorus of women telling us what Therese was feeling.

If it were less ambitious musically, a little more restrained in performance and with one role recast, this would be a terrific show. Still worth a visit in this first incarnation, though.

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This show, developed and produced by musicals laboratory Perfect Pitch, shows great promise. For me, it’s more of a song cycle than a fully formed show though, so there’s still work to do I think.

Our eight characters have one thing in common – Covent Garden tube station, and its lift in particular. They include a secretary and her boss, a French teacher, a lap dancer and a ballet dancer and it sort of revolves around a busker. There’s a maybe relationship between boss & secretary, a friendship between the dancers, a professional relationship between the teacher and lap dancer and a lot of chatroom stuff.

Some characters are developed more than others, some hardly at all, in the short 75 minutes we’re with them – and that’s why it feels like work-in-progress. It’s a clever idea, about communication in the modern world, but it isn’t fully formed yet. Modern musicals are all beginning to sound the same to me, and this is no more original than any other – but it’s a good score nonetheless, even if it is a touch formulaic, feeling like it belongs in the genre of ‘modern American chamber musical’ – slick, snappy, soundbites (though it’s not American, obviously!).

The staging is clever though occasionally too frenetic, and the sound sometimes too loud, sweeping away any subtlety. They’ve assembled a very talented cast, though someone of the calibre of Julie Atherton is rather wasted in her under-developed role. I was particularly impressed by Cynthia Erivo and Jonny Fines as the dancers.

The young audience lapped it all up and overall I’m less negative than I may seem. I do hope composer Craig Adams stays with it a while longer and / or continues to develop other musicals as he’s clearly talented.

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