I freely admit I don’t quite know what to make of Seasons of Love, the Irish music/dance/visual spectacular that has premiered at The Theatre Royal Drury Lane, prior to touring.
Anyone who called their show ‘Climb Every Mountain’ and then gave their audience two hours of original music with no reference whatsoever to Rogers and Hammerstein would have either to be excessively sure of the product they had on offer, or extremely stupid.
It is therefore something of a mystery as to why this venerable old playhouse should have been the home this evening to an entertainment bearing the title of one of the most famous musical theatre songs of the last thirty years, Seasons of Love, and yet which has not even a sniff towards the late Jonathan Larson and his worldwide hit, Rent.
To summarise as best I can…Seasons of Love is a sort of concert with dancing and singing, a live band on stage, and some natty back projections and visuals, apparently on the theme of love through the seasons…only three of which, for some reason, are represented.
Any the wiser? No. And I fear that may be its inherent problem.
As I sat in my seat in the stalls I tried genuinely to figure out who this show is aimed at. It’s certainly not the musical theatre crowd, as there’s a negligible amount of plot, and the songs aren’t in any way, shape, or form, theatrical.
Although there is some quite brilliant choreography, for which Gareth Walker should be justly congratulated, performed by an astonishing young troupe of dancers with Marianne Phillips, Kane D Ricca, Martin Fenton, Mandy Montanez, Kieran Brown, and Danielle Everdell as principals, and a full supporting cast, I don’t think the show would necessarily appeal to a ‘dance’ crowd because of the amount of singing.
The songs, by Mark Leddy, who is presumably also responsible for the underscoring – and there is a lot of underscoring which at times felt as if it was spliced together from the off-cuts to the soundtrack of the film Local Hero – is by the yard. Everything that’s going to be said stylistically, harmonically, lyrically, and (annoyingly) in terms of volume happens within the first fifteen minutes of the show, and after that just seems to be re-ordered, warmed through, and recapitulated in one form or another.
That the songs themselves rarely excite is not really the fault of the six singers, headed by 1980’s heart-throb (who I have to say seems to have aged very well) Chesney Hawkes, former member of pop sensation Steps, Claire Richards, and singer-songwriter Mark Read all of whom, together with their singing partners Ambra Caserotti, Hayley Sanderson, and Patrick Smyth give creditable enough performances.
The other major element of the show is the visuals which again are a bit hit and miss veering between being an advert for the Irish Tourist Board as the camera swoops and rises over some of the most beautiful countryside imaginable, and something approaching a computer generated screen saver. By far the most successful visuals come in the first half when the classical columns and colonnades of an eighteenth century country-house interior morph into a thousand different kaleidoscopic interlocking shapes above the dancers’ heads.
All this being said, the audience – who may have been the Chesney Hawkes Fan Club for all I know – loved it, though I will admit that by the end a certain amount of ennui had set in with me.
So, is there an audience out there for this sort of show? The producers evidently think so. The nearest I could get to identifying it was that it was the sort of thing put on in a field at a National Trust Property during the summer which was meant to be accompanied by Pimms, a beautiful location, and the setting sun. Without that, I think I’d be calling in a dramaturge to give the whole some much-needed shape, and sharpening my blue pencil ready for some cuts.