In a development that may well have made Oscar Wilde chuckle, adaptations of The Picture of Dorian Gray are never too far from our stages and screens. We’ve had a streamed reinterpretation already this year but as its name might suggest, Dorian A Rock Musical also modernises the text but puts a musical spin onto the tale.
In some ways, Dorian A Rock Musical is a bit of a misnomer, Joe Evans’ score draws its influences from a much wider musical palette than solely rock and that’s probably to its advantage. Although undoubtedly gothic to its very soul, there’s an appealing openness to much of the music here with its plentiful harmonies, which marries well with lyrics that wittily incorporate the occasional Wildean bon mot.
Unfortunately, Linnie Reedman’s book doesn’t quite match, lacking the necessary clarity to make this adaptation work. The modernisation is very light touch and even then, is clunkily handled when references to ‘social followers’ and record deals skate by without any real narrative follow-through. Handsomely dressed period settings also add to the lack of surefootedness about when we are, there’s not enough clear-cut sense of identity here.
What does work here is the performance level. Bart Lambert (so good in the Hope’s Thrill Me) brings a compelling angst and a glorious vocal prowess to his sexually free protagonist. And his chemistry with his co-stars crackles off the screen, particularly with John Addison’s raffish Lord Henry. But with a piece so well known and so previously well-adapted in many forms, I think this version needs a little more work before it really cuts through.
Dorian A Rock Musical is streaming via stream.theatre until 12 August 2021.