Woman in White – 11 September 2004, London

For me the main question is not whether to like or dislike Woman in White but whether it needs a score at all and if so should ALW be the best person to score it.. For me, on the whole and after one viewing, the answer to both questions is no.

Woman in White could easily be done in this format with only a few minor tweaks as a play, using the same sets and direction and I don’t believe you would find the story / production lacking. Essentially the music does not give it that final topping, does not take the emotions beyond what can be spoken in words for everything has been expressed in words and actions already. The characters are able to convey everything without reaching that point where you feel the only way to make the full impact is to move into song. For a new musical, a score which adds little to the story is worrying .

The main 7 characters are supported by an ensemble of 16 and the next question must be why ? there is little for the ensemble to do, they are the many servants in the Fairley and Glyde households, the local villagers, the upper classes at the gaming tables and the poor of London but these are roles which could be fulfilled with a smaller ensemble. The ‘Lammistide’ sequence is let down by a piece of music which fails to convey the joy and celebration of harvest time, during the song ‘Lost Souls’ it was not possible to distinguish the words sung. The music had a very minor / discordant feel to it at times which could be said to be in keeping with the gothic thriller genre but without hearing words it is hard to understand the emotions of these groups of people. In contrast the playout by the orchestra brought a life to the music which had not been orchestrated earlier.

On first hearing of the score the main ballad ‘Believe your heart’ appears in its entirety in Act 1 and at several other occasions is repeats but beyond that it is hard to remember specific tunes. I am sure that ‘Evermore without you’ and ‘All for Laura’ will on further hearings become more engrained. The show is 90% sung through and the songs listed in the programme are interwoven with the incidental music and excerpts from previous works can be perceived in some sections.

There are positives with the show and a number of them. It has a good story (I am not overly familiar with the book so I don’t know how much it varies from the original) The characters are well defined, directed and acted and all performers were in very good voice.

Of the women I particularly liked Jill Paice’s Laura Fairley. She had a good stage presence and played the change from innocent girl, to battered wife and revengeful wife well. There was a good and believable chemistry between her and Martin Crewes’ Walter Hartwight and sisterly relationship with Maria Friedman’s Marian. Martin Crewes was very good at Walter, catching just the right sense of anguish, frustration and depression thoughout the story. He gave an excellent delivery of ‘Evermore without you’ and together with Jill they performed ‘Believe my heart’ well. Maria played the older sister Marian and she conveyed the trials and torments of Marian well, her main song ‘All for Laura’ is a big song which comes at the end of act 1 and is picked up on other occasions but whilst is was sang with fraught emotion the higher notes sometime hit a harshness in sound. She doesn’t have the natural elegance of Jill Paice which makes Marian seem less than feminine which matches her character

Michael Crawford is almost unrecognisable as Count Fosco but his background in comedy certainly comes into play as his Fosco is not sinister as such, more of a slimy rogue with a little charm and his song ‘You can get away with anything’ is well played with the right amount of tongue in check and fun but he will have to watch as his co-star could easily upstage him !(a rate who runs across his arms but on this occasion decided to have a prolonged stop at the base of his wig)

Although Angela Christian’s irish / cockney / rural accent as Anne Catterick does not always sit easy on the ear, she had the right look, characterisation and presence as the tormented Anne Catterick and the first meeting of Anne and Laura was very well performed.

Oliver Darley was well cast as the quietly violent and manipulating Sir Percival Glyde, he successfully conveyed the outside persona of a charming man and yet at the same time his true nature was always displayed in a look or a gesture. Edward Petherridge was suitably slightly eccentric as the girl’s uncle.

Watching from the side of the auditorium the full impact of the 3D projections is hard to assess. I did not find them overally distracting and it is a nvoel way to show scene movement and it meant one scene melted into another.

I liked the story, the characters, the acting, the singing, the staging and direction on the whole but for me the disappointment was the score which I feel is not lush or varied as the story requires and never lifts the show to the next level. After the first viewing I do want to see the show again, knowing what to expect and a different seat perspective may enhance the viewing but I don’t think it can be cured for me of it’s flaw – the music.

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