Charing Cross Theatre, London – until 10 February 2018
Guest reviewer: Terry Eastham
Are you a fan of Victorian melodrama? Are you a fan of Musicals? And finally, are you a fan of the work of ’The Lord’ – you know who I mean? If you can answer yes to at least two of these, then get yourself down to the Charing Cross Theatre where they are staging a revival of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Woman in White.
The story begins in as drawing teacher, Walter Hartright (Ashley Stilburn) arrives at the rail station that serves Limmeridge House. Through the fog, Walter sees a woman (Sophie Reeves) running as if from someone. Startled by this apparition, Walter makes his way to Limmeridge House where he is taking up a post teaching drawing to half sisters Marian Halcombe (Carolyn Maitland) and Laura Fairlie (Anna O’Byrne). The reason for this is to find the girls something to do, because the elderly Mr Fairlie (Anthony Cable) wants peace and quiet in his last days.
As the days go on a strange menage a trois develops with Marian falling in love with Walter and Walter falling for the charms of Laura. She, however, is not available as she is betrothed to Sir Percival Glyde (Chris Peluso). Percival is not a man to let the grass grow under his feet and has suggested that the wedding be brought forward to Christmas, a plan heartily endorsed by his friend and Best Man Count Fosco (Greg Castiglioni). With all the pieces in place, the game is afoot and the race against time to secure a safe future for at least one of the players has started.
Based on the 19th-century mystery novel by Wilkie Collins, The Woman in White is a fascinating example of Victorian gothic melodrama. I’m not sure how closely Charlotte Jones has based her book on the original but I have to say there are some amazing plot holes running throughout. I don’t want to give too much away but this is one show where it is definitely better not to delve too deep into the story itself. What saves the show is the music and lyrics by Lloyd Webber and David Zippel respectively. There really are some fantastic, powerful numbers that really take off and hold the audience. ‘All for Laura’ is one that springs instantly to mind here.
The other redeeming factor in this show is the cast, with some excellent acting and singing throughout. Normally I wouldn’t do this but a quick shout out to the really hard-working ensemble (Christopher Blades, Olivia Brereton, Janet Mooney and Dan Walter ) and the young actresses playing Corn Dolly Girl (Alice Bonney/Olivia Dixon/Rebecca Nardin) all of whom do a sterling job not only acting and singing but moving the scenery around and giving a real Victorian flavour to the piece.
With regards to the rest of the cast, there were some seriously strong performances from the three leading ladies, Sophie, Carolyn and Anna, all of whom have wonderfully full operatic voices that filled the auditorium. And then there is, what I am sure will be everyone’s favourite moment of the production. The virtually show stealing ‘You Can Get Away with Anything, sung by Greg Castiglioni as Count Fosco. Not just sung, but absolutely lived by Greg. This song is an awesome example of when everything – the tune, lyrics and performance – are absolutely in sync with each other to the point where the applause afterwards virtually raised the roof.
Photo Credit Darren Bell
Set Designer Morgan Large seems to have made the Charing Cross Stage larger than I’ve seen it before and this is really necessary Jonathan Lipman’s beautiful Costumes, particularly the ladies dresses with their hooped skirts, are huge. The use of sliding panels means that Director Thom Southerland can move people on and off the stage as if by magic but I do have a criticism here. Once again there seems to be an over-reliance on smoke to create an atmosphere. Virtually throughout the whole two and a half hour run, there was smokie wafting around. Personally, I don’t think its necessary, to have so much, especially as I find it always dries my throat.
However, all in all, this was a really enjoyable production. Yes, there are plot holes and no, not all of the songs work individually but together this is a nice creepy story with some stand out numbers that sits well in this theatre and brings Victorian melodrama as a storytelling form in to the 21st century in fine style.
Patrick Gracey, Steven M. Levy and Vaughan Williams by arrangement with The Really Useful Group Limited present
The Woman in White
Music by Andrew Lloyd Webber
Lyrics by David Zippel
Book by Charlotte Jones
Saturday 10 February, 2018
Charing Cross Theatre
London WC2N 6NL
Box office: 08444 930 650
Monday to Saturday at 7.30pm
Wednesday matinee at 2.30pm
Saturday matinee at 3.00pm
Phone and internet orders are subject to a booking fee
There are no booking fees on tickets
purchased in person.
How to get here:
Nearest underground stations:
Charing Cross (Bakerloo and
Embankment (Bakerloo, Northern, Circle and District lines)
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