Brockley Jack Studio Theatre, London – until 27 April 2019
Michael John LaChiusa’s musical is a refreshing look at what an older woman is capable of. Even if Trudi Camilleri isn’t doing any death defying stunts it is just fantastic to see an older woman lead a musical. It happens rarely with musicals such as Ballroom or Sunset Boulevard leading the way for older leading ladies.
Queen of the Mist, brought to us by Pint of Wine, is about the almost forgotten Anna Edson Taylor (Camilleri), a woman of 63 years old who has struggled to find her niche. Turfed out of various teaching businesses due to lack of clients, she has an enviable belief in herself (‘There is Greatness in Me’) that often leads to conflicts with her sister Jane (Emily Juler). Jane has grown up and started a family whilst Anna is still a wild child at heart. When she comes across an idea to successfully shoot the Niagara Falls in a barrell, using science, she nevers doubts her survival but fails to predict the lack of fame and money her daredevil antics bring her.
This is a great production, making use of a live band lead by musical director Jordan Li-Smith, and Tara Usher’s set and costume design create an impressive re-creation of late 19th and early 20th century America. As a story it is quite difficult, the first half ending on her achievement and second half looking at a woman who is no longer impressive.
The second half is more vulgar and I thought it was an interesting way of showing a woman ageing and the world changing around her. There is a wonderful scene with Carrie Nation (Emma Ralston), the radical member of the Temperance movement attacking establishments with a hatchet. She looks down on the wild Edson Taylor who reminds her that they are similar and in their respective fields for the money.
The supporting cast is all great. Will Arundell shines as her dodgy manager Frank Russell whose lack of faith in Anna ruins their close relationship. Tom Blackmore, Conor McFarlane and Andrew Carter are not only fantastic singers but provide a lot of depth to some minor but important characters. LaChiusa has found a real character in Anna but also in Juler’s Jane and ‘The Blonde’ who pretends to be Anna on the circuit. It is an achievement from Dom O’Hanlon to create such a well rounded production in such a small space. I look forward to his upcoming adaptation of Mame.
The Brockley Jack Studio is constantly offering interesting and challenging productions and this is a must see for fans of musicals with a strong book as well as beautiful music and lyrics.