THE WOMAN IN WHITE, 5*****, London

Music by Andrew Lloyd Webber, lyrics by David Zippel book by Charlotte Jones.
Based on the novel by Wilkie Collins

Charing Cross Theatre, The Arches, Villiers Street, London WC2N 6NL to 10 February 2018.
Mon – Sat 7.30pm Mat Wed 2.30pm Sat 3pm.
Runs 2hr 30 mins One interval.

TICKETS: 08444 930650.
Review: William Russell 4 December.

A glittering revival beautifully directed and performed.

Noel Coward once remarked he had left a musical humming the sets and, while it was not about this 2004 Lloyd Webber show it too was a production praised for its sets and not much else. Collins’ novel proved intractable material, and the score had echoes of all sorts of earlier shows it was noted, and now of some then still to come. It also has a plethora of leading ladies, a hero hard to like, and two villains, one of whom was played for grotesque comic relief. Although it ran for 19 months the cast and production kept changing. Another problem was that it used, perhaps for the first time, back projections, common place now, but upsetting to the eye then.

Director Thom Southerland has done a first rate job with yet another revised version. It was interesting that at the press night, although the usual ululators were there, the audience did not rise to its feet at the end. On the evidence of their eyes and ears – the cast can sing, production values are high – they should have leapt up in ecstasy. But the complicated plot is confusing, the lyrics uninspiring and the lady in white is not, as it seems at first, a ghost but the villain’s first wife consigned to an amazingly insecure lunatic asylum.

Chris Peluso is wonderfully hiss worthy as the wicked and dashingly goodlooking Sir Percival Glyde and Anna O’Byrne is a pallid and lovely victim as Laura Fairlie, whose fortune he covets. Like Anne Catherick, who plays the mysterious woman in white, and Carolyn Maitland, who plays Laura’s half sister Marian, O’Byrne has a lovely voice and the usual Lloyd Webber soupy melodies that soar get the full treatment.

Ashley Stilburn, who plays the drawing teacher employed to teach Laura, has the necessary looks for a lover, although at times it does seem as if, being penniless, he thinks he is on to a good thing in the form of his pupil. Nor after Laura’s death is he averse to the approaches of Marian wants his help to expose Sir Percival. After all if Laura is dead then the other dear charmer is to hand. He does, however, match Peloso in the voice stakes.

Add a comic rogue called Count Fosco, a show stopping turn from Greg Castiglioni, that handsome set Gothic set by Morgan Large, elegant costumes by Jonathan Lipman and a first rate orchestra under Simon Holt and the result is about as good as it will ever get with this show. But there are just too many female leads who all get their chance to come to the front of the stage and warble, as do the men. It is never clear whether Laura or Marian is the star role, and Fosco – given West End stars starting with Michael Crawford – is also a problem because one really does not root for the penniless artist. Mr Southerland, who has reheated and saved many a musical turkey before, has taken this dubious bird, served it up with all the trimmings in impeccable style and the result should be a Christmas and New Year treat for everyone.

And there is a very good train crash.

Walter Hartwright: Ashley Silburn.
Ensemble: Christopher Blades.
Anne Catherick: Sophie Reeves.
Ensemble: Dan Walter.
Ensemble: Janet Mooney.
Ensemble: Olivia Brereton.
Marian Halcombe: Carolyn Maitland.
Laura Fairlie: Anna O’Byrne.
Mr Fairlie: Antony Cable.
Sir Percival Glyde: Chris Peluso.
Count Fosco: Greg Castiglioni.
Corn Dolly Girl: Alice Bonney/Olivia Dixon/Rebecca Nardin.

Director: Tom Southerland.
Choreographer: Cressida Carre.
Musical Supervisor: Stephen Brooker.
Musical Director: Simon Holt.
Set Designer: Morgan Large.
Costume Designer: Jonathan Lipman.
Lighting Designer: Rick Fisher.
Sound Designer: Andrew Johnson.
Orchestrations: David Cullen.

2017-12-06 17:48:37

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