Greenwich Theatre, London – until 19 October 2019
Brooklyn The Musical is a pretty obscure show which opened on Broadway in 2004. It’s relatively unknown but features a number of fantastically catchy songs. The musical’s European premiere at the Greenwich Theatre showcases fantastic talent and reminds us of how magical music can be. Strong direction by Adam Haigh and consistently impressive performances by the cast bring the show to life with vitality and vocal prowess, and make it one to tick off the list.
Set in New York City, a group of street performers perform a “sidewalk fairytale” about a love story and what came of it. We follow a singer from Paris called Brooklyn who is on a quest to find her father and make good of the world she’s in. The story itself is minimal and the book is pretty wacky, but the show’s spectacular score breathes life into it and shares the characters motivations wonderfully.
The book, music and lyrics are by Mark Schoenfield and Barri McPherson who have adapted the show for various productions including Broadway and a US tour. As a whole, this production really is a grungy, ensemble led, song-fest which features one of the strongest and most vocally tight ensembles in London right now. The sharp harmonies and electric interactions with one another really engage the audience.
It’s ideal that Hiba Elchikhe leads the cast as Brooklyn, because she absolutely has one of the best voices ever. The tone, the emotion, the power. Just. So. Good. Her demeanour is charming as she tries to find her father and the audience are instantly able to warm to her beaming personality. It’s absolutely worth making a trip to Greenwich just to hear “Once Upon a Time’ sung live by Elchikhe. Emily Mae gives an equally earth quaking vocal performance as the “aging” Diva, Paradice.
Raven is a particular stand out moment, but Emily captures the audience in the palm of her hand throughout. Smooth and mysterious, Andrew Patrick-Walker makes the Street Singer someone to remember as he acts as a musically enchanting, overseer of the show. Sabrina Aloueche and John Addison add further depth to the show and the whole cast work exceptionally well together to evoke the feeling of being in New York and searching for a dream. If the Greenwich Theatre were powered by riffs, it would be shining bright thanks to the cast of Brooklyn and Andrew Johnson’s sound design which showcases them.
Justin Williams’ set design transforms the Greenwich theatre into “a ravaged street corner in Brooklyn, New York” and presents a visual treat for the audience as Brooklyn’s story is told. With ladders that are slid around, fairy lights, falling snow and an ever present guitar case, the set, complemented by Jack Weir’s lighting manages to invoke both the fairy tale vibes and the gritty feel of NYC.
A masterful blending of talents allows this production to shine. It’s not a masterpiece of theatrical writing but it is a really fun night out and a chance to see a rarely performed show done at a very high standard. Who knows, you might find your miracle too.
photo credit: Pamela Raith