Writer: Paul Sirett
Director: Peter Rowe
Musical Director: Ben Goddard
Reviewer: Glen Pearce
The Public Reviews Rating:
Musical theatre never ceases to amaze by its inventiveness. The most unlikely of source material is endlessly transformed into song and dance shows. Edmond Rostand’s 1897 verse play, Cyrano de Bergerac, has been adapted many times over the years, but never has this tale of unrequited love been transposed to the 1960s world of Mods and Rockers and their vivid jukebox soundtrack.
Jukebox is the key word here. Not only is this a classic example of the jukebox musical genre but designer Mark Walters places the performers in the middle of a giant jukebox. Performers perform on a vinyl disc, while the on stage band perches on a pile of records.
In this updated tale Cyrano transforms into Cyril, a Carnaby Street clothes retailer renowed for the size of his nose as he is for his outfits. Cyril desperately loves Rox but is convinced she will never see past his facial features. When Italian Cristiano enters their lives Cyril ends up playing cupid to his own true love.
The story’s well known and writer Paul Sirett has great fun updating it to the 1960s but you can’t help feeling that it’s a bit of a contrived update to fit the music rather than a genuine exploration of the period. Part of the problem lies in the overt jukebox theming – the song choices, while often humorous, seems something of an afterthought, shoehorned into the story rather than sitting comfortably into the action.
That’s not to say there isn’t fun to be had here. The cast revel in the nostalgia and the comedy in Sirett’s script is well delivered. There’s an impressive performance from Francesca Jackson as Rox, a feisty independence tempered with a sweet innocence but the highlight of the evening is a mesmerising performance from Peter Manchester as Cyril. Combining comic timing with real emotion, Manchester gives real depth to the troubled go-between.
Peter Rowe’s production loses pace in some of the non-musical numbers, especially in the first act. Tension builds nicely in the second act, moving towards a genuinely moving climax. Just as the audience are absorbing the heartfelt ending, Rowe bizarrely then decides to break any dramatic tension with a series of rock concert style musical encores. Regular New Wolsey audiences will recognise the format from the annual rock n roll panto but it seems strangely out of place here.
There is real potential here, and overall it’s an enjoyable evening of a good musical. With a bit more work and a focus on the drama as well as the rock n roll though it could be a great musical. The audience are indeed up on their feet at the end but one has to ask is that in celebration of the music or the story.