Southwark Playhouse Livestream (venue)
27 February 2021 (released)
This new musical has some sweeping ambitions, inspired by J.W. Goethe’s original poem and transposed to the Icy North. It’s a mythical land where the magic and powerful energies of the Aurora Borealis are being drained to provide power and jobs for the people of Midgard, it explores issues that are very much at the fore today.
It centres around the father and daughter pairing of Johan and Eva Gottel, and their personal connection, through their gift of magic, to the waning Northern Lights. There is also the struggles of young Eva becoming a woman, and a father that can’t connect with his blossoming daughter. Played by David Thaxton and Mary Moore, their performances are excellent and quite literally hold the piece together.
Running the company responsible for the impending ecological disaster, the mother and son pairing of Lamia and Fabian Lyddeker provide much of the humour. Dawn Hope and Mark Pickering revel and excel as these comedy villains.
There are strong performances and excellent singing from Nicola Blackman and Yazdan Qafouri whose talents are very much underused.
With Goethe’s story, having been adapted by Disney for Fantasia, it is not all surprising that the songs have echoes of such animated films as Beauty and the Beast and Tangled. Here the composers Richard Hough and Ben Morales Frost have also sprinkled the numbers with the more edgy writing of Sondheim, particularly in Act Two. This succeeds in its general musicality and provides a variety of songs that should appeal to the family audience. However catchy these songs are, they never quite hit the dramatic high-notes the characters are emoting . It is in the lighter comedy numbers such as ‘Let There Be Light’ where they succeed best.
Directed by Charlotte Westenra, it is a slick production that moves effortlessly between locations and has moments of real heart and magic. It’s a shame that this was not allowed it’s staged performances in January. Though the magic, lighting and creative puppetry has charm. and is engaging on screen , I can’t help but feel this would have been so much more impressive experiencing it sat in a theatre audience.
This is a show that should light up the stage, and will hopefully get its chance to do that sometime soon.