Rebecca - Charing Cross Theatre
An underwhelming arrival
Following such a lengthy and anticipated opening, the musical of the 1938 novel by Daphne du Maurier falls short of its proceeding hype. Lacklustre direction and a tired script weigh like anchors for the poor cast, the production seemingly twenty years out of date already.
Rebecca retold now in various mediums, tells the story of a nameless woman, only referred to as ‘I’, marrying the high-profile Maxim de Winter in 1926 after a chance encounter in Monte Carlo, only to be overshadowed at every turn by Maxim’s late wife, Rebecca. She struggles to exist in this new high society environment, the head of the household Mrs Danvers leading the effort to undermine her character and doubting her ability to replace the first Mrs de Winter. Questions around Rebecca’s death resurface and ‘I’ must fight for the life she has chosen. Frustratingly, there are major spoilers in the programme that ruined some of the twists and turns for me, so do beware if you see this production.
The musical numbers from Michael Kunze and Sylvester Levay are reminiscent of older Andrew Lloyd Webber melodies but now feel out of step with more modern and intriguing musicals on offer in London and beyond. The talented cast belt out the songs with care and attention, but none are truly memorable despite several experiencing more than one reprise. The score offers little in the way of variety. The ballad after ballad combo left me wondering if this production would have been better served as a staged concert - the noisy and clunky scene changes obvious evidence to support this argument. The nineteen-piece orchestra do sound magnificent under musical director Robert Scott’s care - a new possibility thanks to the recent work to expand the orchestra capacity at the Charing Cross Theatre.
Alejandro Bonatto’s direction is sadly uninspired. The large scene changes in the limited space necessitate the regular closing of the curtain, forcing actors repeatedly and uncomfortably into the aisles. The production lacks a spark to draw us in, the direction opting instead to settle in and go through the motions, void of dynamism or excitement and therefore landing on the wrong side of boring - static is a word that springs to mind. The cast are left in a tricky situation, singing their socks off but severely hampered by the work around them. Lauren Jones finds a nice arc in her performance, transitioning from timid and insecure to commanding and bold as she begins to understand the world she has found herself in and Richard Carson battles to find a personality for Maxim, thankfully able to find depth when performing opposite Jones. Each sing their hearts out, with them and their fellow cast member’s vocals the only highlight of this show. As Mrs. Danvers, Kara Lane offers the most commanding vocal performance of the evening. Her rendition of the titular song Rebecca is immense and complete, her stoic composure a sight to witness.
The design elements like much of the production, lack the polish needed to lift the piece any further. The folding set, whilst towering, gets in the way and lacks the detail to immerse us in the world and the projection design adds very little, its inclusion borderline unnecessary. In truth, this is far from the grand arrival many had hoped for.
Running till 18th November - Tickets
Photography - Mark Senior