Review Roundup: Dave Malloy's GHOST QUARTET in London - Read the Reviews!
Dave Malloy's Ghost Quartet recently opened in London at the Boulevard Theatre!
Ghost Quartet, is written by the Tony Award-nominated writer of Broadway smash-hit Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812 Dave Malloy. Bill Buckhurst directs and reunites the creative team behind his sell-out production of Stephen Sondheim's Sweeney Todd, which transferred from a pie shop in Tooting, to the West End, and eventually to a sell-out New York run, with musical direction and supervision by Benjamin Cox, design by Simon Kenny, movement direction by Georgina Lamb, lighting by Emma Chapman, sound design by David Gregory and casting by Will Burton CDG.
Let's see what the critics are saying...
Cindy Marcolina, BroadwayWorld: The material is quietly astonishing. Malloy's lyrical craftsmanship matches his exquisite melodic flare; dark melodies and electro-pop alternate folk and bohemian tunes as the cast build their relationship with the crowd. From Bawden's crystalline deliveries and Memon's smoky echos to Varla's jazzy crescendos and Curradi's precisely deep notes, each member brings something different to the score singing as well as playing a multitude of instruments each - but it's when they come together in harmony that the result is truly otherworldly.
Marianka Swain, The Arts Desk: If perhaps too much to absorb in one viewing, it's still hugely satisfying when connections slide into place - particularly as some materialise so gradually and delicately, like a butterfly emerging from its chrysalis - though a kinder sound balance would help here so that Malloy's intricate lyrics aren't lost, with both voices and some instruments overamplified. But you don't always need a clear context to enjoy this highly original work; often, what transpires in the moment is electrifying enough.
Nick Curtis, The Evening Standard: Director Bill Buckhurst - forever to be famous for staging Sweeney Todd in a pie shop in Tooting - keeps things relaxed and convivial. The songs are introduced as if by the track listing for a two-disc concept album. Some are touching, others merely diverting, such as The Astronomer, whose titular hero aspires to sing in church. "Practice, practice!" admonish the other cast members.
Kate Wyver, The Guardian: The story is woozy at best, fragments shaken together like a box of leftover puzzle pieces. Some of the stories have clear roots, while others float out of reach. Two sisters are lost in time. Ghosts, bears and ancestors reappear as the cast leap from tales of telescopes to tango dances to underground vaults where corpses are kept. The romantic mysticism of Bill Buckhurst's production is cheerfully undercut by absurd humour, some lyrics spoken with sincerity despite their unquestionable silliness.
Mark Shenton, LondonTheatre.co.uk: The fragmentary nature of the storytelling sends you hurtling down different paths to try to make sense of it, making the show sometimes difficult to pin down. But you could, as I did, just surrender to the enveloping atmosphere of the in-the-round staging, with a set made up of the bric-a-brac of numerous musical instruments and packing cases, stacked to become a performance platform. Emma Chapman's astonishing lighting keeps redefining the space and providing different moods.
Tim Bano, The Stage: Piano and cello provide most of the accompaniment, but there's fiddle, drums, even a bit of synth, all played by the incredible actor-musician cast. The actors' voices mesh gloriously and there are some chilling notes from Carly Bawden and Maimuna Memon. Zubin Varla is one of those actors you could stare at for the entire show and feel as if you've missed nothing. He's so committed and expressive.
Greg Stewart, Theatre Weekly: Musical Director, Benjamin Cox has weaved some kind of magic in this production because it sounds absolutely divine, even the tracks that may not be a of a genre of your usual choosing will take you by surprise. Emma Chapman's lighting design takes over the whole theatre, often at its best in its simplest moments, but astounding in its most complex.
Andrzej Lukowski, TimeOut London: It's almost so much to take in lyrically that it needed the slightly down-at-heel, lo-fi presentation of its Edinburgh incarnation to keep it in check. Here, director Bill Buckhurst doesn't exactly lose sight of that. But it doesn't click to the same extent. It feels absurd to complain that a cast are too good. But they kind of are. Zubin Varla, Carly Bawden, Maimuna Memon, Niccolo Curradi... These are seriously heavyweight actor-singer-musicians and they sound technically wonderful. But even though they seem to be enjoying each other's company, they don't really look like a band, and Buckhurst gives them a whole load of schtick and business to do that feels a little forced.
Connor Campbell, The Upcoming: The cast, each playing multiple instruments, are astonishing. Zubin Varla at the piano, the de facto bandleader, his wonderfully distinctive pipes lending such character to the piece. Master cellist Niccolo Curradi, cheekily interacting with the audience. The beautiful clarity of Carly Bawden's voice, especially near the end in Hero. And Maimuna Memon - an alternately unsettling, captivating and dramatic presence, the production's tonal shifts best expressed through her performance. The show's strengths lie in showing what this Boulevard Theatre can do, rather than the best it can be. It's a space small enough to allow the cast to hand out glasses of whiskey to the audience, bring them on stage to play instruments. In the right hands, it could be really special. Ghost Quartet is a decent start.