Words & Music by Michael John LaChiusa.
Suggested by Arthur Schnitzler’s La Ronde.
The Union Theatre, 229 Union Street, London SE1 0LR to 21 September 2019.
Tues – Sat 7.30pm. Mat Sat & Sun 2.30pm.
Runs 1hr 45 mins One interval.
TICKETS: 020 7261 9876.
Review: William Russell 30 August 2019.
Staged with considerable style and strongly cast Hello Again is inspired by Arthur Schnitzler’s 1897 play La Ronde in which a couple meet, then one of them meets someone else, that someone else meets yet another person and so on. Each time a bracelet is passed on, although what was really being passed on was venereal disease. Quite why it is staged with an interval is not clear as it breaks the flow of the stories which are essentially meeting and falling out of love tales spread over a period of years. On press night things were not helped when the fire alarm went off just as things in act two were coming to a head. It is done with minimal props on a bare stage which allows the stories to merge on into the other although Callen has adopted a rather irritating habit of ending each tale by flooding the arc lamps on the audience effectively blinding it. One is worth doing, but after a while it gets distinctly irksome.
Michael John LaChiusa’s score is certainly attractive, his lyrics are to the point, and director Paul Callen has kept the resulting merry go round of love whirling at speed. Given that LaChiusa has another musical on in town at the moment – Queen of the Mist – this production of Hello Again provides a chance well worth taking to see more of his work.
But in a musical with a story to tell words matter and not all the cast were as clear as they might have been, some of them were making their professional debuts, and nobody was miked. The chances are that in their training they were taught to sing when miked. Certainly when David Pendlebury, one of the most experienced members of the cast, appeared in the last two stories as a Senator abandoning his actress mistress in one and then spending the night with the tart with a heart who had featured in the first story, every word could be heard.
The encounters to relish included one between a private nurse (Alice Ellen Wright) looking after a spoilt brat of a college student (Regan Burke) whom she seduces, his trip to the cinema with a married woman (Grace Roberts) who services him in a way not often seen on stage, and the later one between her not really interested in sex pompous businessman husband (Keith Merrill) and a young man from steerage (Philip Murch) on the Titanic. Some of the other stories did suffer from a lack of vocal projection when it came to the songs although the performances otherwise were fine. The Union has an admirable track record as the fringe home of the musicals of yesterday and this is a perfectly acceptable addition to its list of shows which one would not otherwise be able to see. Previous LaChiusa shows staged there include The Wild Party and Bernarda Alba.
The Whore: Ellen O’Grady.
The Soldier: Jack Rowell.
The Nurse: Alice Ellen Wright.
The College Boy: Regan Burke.
The Young Wife: Grace Roberts.
The Husband: Keith Merrill.
The Young Thing: Phillip Murch.
The Writer: George Whitty.
The Actress: Amy Parker.
The Senator: David Pendlebury.
Director/Staging: Paul Callen.
Musical Director/Orchestrations: Henry Brennan.
Choreographer: Genevieve Leeney.
Lighting Designer: Ben Bill.
Costume Designer: Reuben Speed.
Production Photograph: Mark Senior.