book by James Peries lyrics and music by Mark Carroll based on the novel by William Horwood.
Union Theatre 204 Union Street SE1 0LX To 20 June 2015.
Tue-Sat 7.30 pm Mat Sat, Sun 2.30pm.
Runs 2hr 20min One interval.
TICKETS: 020 7261 9876.
Review: William Russell 6 June.
The Mole the Merrier – a fantastic musical.
A melodious score, a superb cast, imaginative costumes and a terrific set carry this frankly rather daft musical, a mixture of Watership Down and The Revenger’s Tragedy, to triumphant success. It is based on a best-seller which has spawned several sequels, one of those Game of Thrones out of Harry Potter books with a dash of Tolkein which seem to fulfil some need among those who manage to read them.
Not everyone does. But this staging goes down a treat. The plot concerns assorted moles who live in Duncton Wood, a rebel youth called Bracken (strapping Josh Little in tremendous voice) who falls for Rebecca (the interesting looking Amelia-Rose Morgan, equally on form vocally), daughter of Mandrake, the tyrant ruler who is after something called the stone – there is always a mysterious object in tales like this. It is not at all clear what it is, although the object in question looks a bit like a ball of wool.
There is a lot of blood-letting, ancient wise men proliferate, and there is inevitably a wicked rival to Mandrake. The plot is piffle, but the songs are good, the chorus numbers in particular, and not only can the cast sing but one can understand what they are singing.
Fringe shows often treat the music well, but when it comes to the words it is another matter. Not here. Anthony Cable, Trevor Jones and Thomas Thoroe are in good voice as the elders, as are Oli Reynolds and James Sinclair as young mole rebels.
Michael Strassen’s production is fast-moving, frequently inspired, especially in the way the moles are conjured up, and makes the best use of the Union acting space imaginable. Admittedly he also indulges the Union’s habit of insisting that all males under thirty should appear stripped to the waist, which gets a little tiring – rather too many hairy armpits and spotty backs on view.
But, that said, this is a terrific show splendidly performed, which deserves a long life after this run.
Bracken: Josh Little.
Hulmer/Boswell: Trevor Jones.
Mandrake: Anthony Cable.
Rune: Thomas Thoroe.
Rose the healer: Anna Stolli.
Cairn: Oli Reynolds.
Stonecrop: James Sinclair.
Burhead/Ensemble: Robert Dalton.
Rue/Ensemble: Sinead O’Callaghan.
Dance Captain/Ensemble: Nadia Eide.
Caron/Ensemble: Rachel Flynn.
Ensemble: Rosie Ladkin, Hugo Joss Catton, Myles Hart, Kristian Morse.
Director: Michael Strassen.
Designer: Jean Gray.
Lighting: Tim Deiling.
Orchestrator: Michael England.
Vocal Arranger. David Steadman.
Musical Director: Josh Sood.
Creative assistant: Iona Holland.