Review: A Winter’s Tale, Landor ✭✭✭✭

Howard Goodall’s new musical A Winter’s Tale, inspired by Shakespeare’s play, is a strong work that shows great promise. Goodall is one of the most intriguing, unique and exciting contemporary composers of musical theatre, and the plot for this generally follows that of  The Winter’s Tale.

The eighteen-strong cast are hugely talented. Helena Blackman as Paulina, is vocally and emotionally stunning, showing tenderness and vigour. Her voice soars far beyond the intimate space. Stand outs from the first act include Christopher Blades as Camillo, David Brewis as the endearing Mamillius, and Ross Barnes as Antigonus. Unfortunately the plot lacks exposition; Leontes’ madness escalates too quickly and as such, it tends towards overwrought melodrama. Pete Gallagher’s committed performance as Leontes feels somewhat one-note.

Goodall’s score is remarkable; he has a masterful command of harmony and remains lyrically bold.

The second act introduces the rural idyll of Bohemia. Abigail Matthews and Fra Fee as lovers Perdita and Florizel have an instant chemistry and are an absolute delight. Fee has a beautiful vocal tone, particularly in When You Sing, and Matthews’ enchanting voice is clear as a bell. Matthews balances innocence and inherent regal strength perfectly. One of the highlights of the show is her rousing, defiant number, The Same Sun Shines. Ciaran Joyce as clowning rogue Rob is a sprightly presence, and his raucous song Sheep is one of the show’s comedic highpoints. Strong performances also come from Alastair Brookshaw as Polixines, Denis Delahunt as shepherd Melik, and Gareth James Healey as the dim-witted Zeki.

Goodall’s score is remarkable; he has a masterful command of harmony and remains lyrically bold. The opening number Allies, almost fugue-like in style, is an exceptionally powerful opener, while the lyrical gem Found On A Beach has to be up there with Goodall’s best. Unfortunately the score is not matched by Nick Stimson and Andrew Keates’ book, which doesn’t quite hang together. Adapting any classic into a musical is a troublesome process, but this production seems to have problems uniting the two different worlds of the play, and at times has stripped Shakespeare away too much.

Musical Director George Dyer does a marvellous job; the cast have complete command of the harmonies and Dyer’s sterling band outclasses many a West End orchestra. Howard Hudson once again impresses with a striking lighting design.

At present, despite Goodall’s first-rate score, it feels a little disjointed but this Tale shows promise, and with development could be truly great.

****(4 stars)
Runs until 1st December
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