Lane & Lerner On a Clear Day You Can See Forever Bridewell Theatre, London, 12 January (continuing)
The Bridewell Theatre, close by Ludgate Circus, has established under its Artistic Director Carol Metcalfe a formidable reputation for small-scale productions of musicals. The British premiere of On a clear day (1965) is one of their happiest and most successful revivals. Alan Jay Lerner's story and lyrics are engaging - an intelligent and witty fantasy about an American psychiatrist/hypnotist whose patient drops back into the 18th Century, in which guise he finds her irresistible. Confronting present day reality thereafter brings bitter-sweet pain.
The Bridewell is a flexible space, converted from a former swimming pool. It is most inviting, good in its various permutations for sight and sound (and refreshments). The policy is to double parts, and use a reduced musical ensemble; amplification of the voices is anathema. The result is a welcome intimacy.
The nine actor singers are all excellent in team work and in individual projection of their multiple characters. The stars are Jenna Russell and Harry Burton, who has a parallel operatic career (Figaro, Don Giovanni etc.). Burton Lane's score is tuneful but by no means simplistic or formulaic, and is presented here to fine effect by a six-piece band directed by James Dodgson, with a versatile clarinet/flute/saxophone player to vary the instrumentation. Carol Metcalfe's direction, with expert staging and lighting, makes the best possible use of the auditorium. It is salutary to see musicals at the highest level, and The Bridewell deserves attention from 'serious' music lovers and opera goers. Recommended unreservedly for something completely different (details from firstname.lastname@example.org).
Peter Grahame Woolf
[See also review of The Beggars Opera at The Bridewell, Seen&Heard October 1999]
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