There was a time when we Brits lead the field with groundbreaking new musicals on both sides of the Atlantic. In the 1980s Cameron Macintosh, Andrew Lloyd Webber and pals ruled the world with mega hits like CATS, LES MIS, MISS SAIGON, PHANTOM etc. Those shows are all still around of course but they’re beginning to look distinctly old-school.
First American Theatre dazzled us with HAMILTON, which remains the hottest ticket in London and NYC and dared to tell a story of America’s founding fathers using rap music.
Now the life-affirming show FUN HOME has opened to the same kind of ecstatic reviews it enjoyed in Manhattan. I saw it there and it was notable for a number of reasons which still seem worth celebrating in the UK version currently playing at the Young Vic Theatre.
- It’s based on a graphic novel – unusual source material for a musical. Unless you count ANNIE, of course, based on a newspaper cartoon.
- It’s central figure is a lesbian learning about her father’s sexuality and discovering how that impacts on their relationship.
- The score is rich but there are no take home hit songs.
- None of the above matters, even though any one of those things ought to preclude it from mainstream box-office success.
It’s just so damn good, so engaging and so moving in the way that it invites us all, gay or straight, to think about our relationship with our own parents. People are profoundly moved by it, I was, I think you will be too. Go.
And while your booking for that, do grab tickets for COME FROM AWAY another North American treat heading our way.
I saw a very early development presentation of it in New York, attending with little enthusiasm. It’s about 38 plane loads of passengers who are re-routed to Newfoundland in the immediate aftermath of 9/11. There was a real fatigue about 9/11 as a subject at the time and little appetite to revisit any aspect of the atrocity which had been the focus of so much heartache in popular culture. But what a surprise we had that day. The interaction in the show, between the cynical New Yorkers and the less worldly Newfoundland folk threw up some wonderful moments of comedy, self-revelation and non-cheesy sentiment that blew us all away.
None the less I was surprised when it arrived in a major Broadway Theatre. Its kooky title, unappetising premise and the lack of opportunity for spectacle or glamour seemed unlikely to attract the busloads of tourists necessary to keep a commercial hit alive. But I was wrong. People love this show so much that they recommend it to sceptical friends and family and it’s still running over a year later.
Londoners will be able to see it at the Phoenix Theatre in the West End from February 2019 following a Christmas run at the Abbey Theatre in Dublin.
It’s to have a new British cast, yet to be announced. One thing’s for sure, they’ll need to be good with accents. The Newfoundland one isn’t something you often hear and, to British ears it’s a seriously odd mix of Gallic and North American.