Sunday, July 3

BKLYN: The Musical – Lambert Jackson/Stream.Theatre

Towards the end of Schoenfeld and McPherson’s sidewalk fairytale a character warns that sometimes memories are better than reality.  Throughout lockdown the option to stream shows has provided a theatrical lifeline, entertaining audiences whilst providing the theatres and production companies some much needed money.  However, sometimes these productions felt like pale imitations of the live versions we crave. 

BKLYN takes a cinematic swipe at the streamed musical, some of the theatrical trappings are visible (Leo Munby’s tight trio of a band, chunky stage lights at the edge of the action) but the show is carried by Dean Johnson’s attempts to create something more innovative than a love song to an empty theatre. 

The dilapidated warehouse setting works well with Andrew Exeter’s set and lighting design.  Here Exeter uses crumpled newspapers to evoke the world of the City Weeds – the homeless musicians who perform the play within a play.  The rationale for using more realistic shots for key moments is clear, but these tend to expose the clunky libretto and paper thin story.  The show’s strength is in its harmonically rich music, which the five strong cast relish bringing to vivid life.  There is not a weak note between them but Marisha Wallace is a stand-out, managing to elevate Paradice from devilish diva to a character that feels more rounded and resonant than those around her. 

Photo: Sam Diaz/Dean Johnson

The show’s central message of hope and that ‘anything is possible’ even if ‘you’re in America’s lost and found’ provides uplift but can be too sickly especially when performed by under-developed characters who you don’t connect with enough to care for. 

Newton Matthew’s narrator is engaging and commanding. Emma Kingston, Sejal Kershawal and Jamie Muscato, at the heart of the fairytale tragedy, do their best with the limited material – making you yearn for a show that will give them a better opportunity to showcase their evident talents (there are a number of Contemporary British musicals that I personally would love to see given this treatment). 

Ultimately this is a very good production of a somewhat mediocre musical, suggesting more to come from the creative team and Lambert Jackson.  The opening credits encourage audiences to celebrate the privilege of sharing in music, story and community, encouraging live tweeting to create a sense of the communal viewing that ‘makes theatre so magical’.

As tik tok musicals continue to proliferate and we get more familiar with digital Broadway this kind of virtual community building will become more prevalent and I am interested to see what audiences make of BKLYN: The Musical as we hope for the end of lockdown and a return to some kind of normal. Until the 4th April 2021, https://www.stream.theatre/season/51

Reviewer: Clare Chadler

Reviewed: 23rd March 2021

North West End UK Rating: ★★★★

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