Review Roundup: English-Language REBECCA Premieres at Charing Cross Theatre

Performances run to 18 November at Charing Cross Theatre.

By: Sep. 19, 2023
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Review Roundup: English-Language REBECCA Premieres at Charing Cross Theatre

Richard Carson, Lauren Jones and Kara Lane head the cast for the eagerly anticipated English language premiere of the critically acclaimed musical ‘Rebecca’. 

Based on Daphne Du Maurier’s 1938 novel, by Michael Kunze and Sylvester Levay, two of the most successful German-language musical theatre creators, ‘Rebecca’ has already captivated more than two million people worldwide in hugely successful productions in 12 countries and eight languages.

Review Roundup: English-Language REBECCA Premieres at Charing Cross Theatre Cindy Marcolina, BroadwayWorld: This Rebecca is traditional in every way, but it’s most certainly not a classic. Clunky scene changes and unnecessary choral numbers remove the attention from the characters, and what might have started as a beautiful visual homage to the über-famous Hitchcock film with Laurence Olivier stumbles over and ends up in soap-operish territory. It’s a shame that so much has been lost in translation.

Review Roundup: English-Language REBECCA Premieres at Charing Cross Theatre David Benedict, Variety: In the 85 years since its publication, du Maurier’s novel has never been out of print and Hitchcock’s 1940 movie is the rare case of a work that equals its original source. But as Ben Wheatley’s misguided 2020 Netflix movie version proved, the material is far from fail-safe. Reading the novel or revisiting Hitchcock is a far better bet than witnessing this sorry, truly astonishing attempt at re-invention.

Review Roundup: English-Language REBECCA Premieres at Charing Cross Theatre Arifa Akbar, Guardian: The standout is Lane who makes Danvers a powerful force, creepily obsessed with her former mistress. Her relationship with the callow second Mrs De Winter and the morbid triad between the women, including the absent Rebecca, contains enough grip and tension for its own potential spin-off.

Review Roundup: English-Language REBECCA Premieres at Charing Cross Theatre Claire Alfree, Telegraph: It’s staged surprisingly cheaply. Bargain basement video projections – a churning sea; an obscurely rendered boat house – plus predictably liberal use of smoke and mist combine with Mandalay’s dully implacable interior whose cheerless rooms under the gimlet eye of Mrs Danvers make a far from seductive shrine to the late Rebecca. As the unnamed new wife, Lauren Jones is all bitten fingernails and shrunken shoulders, thrust into a macabre psychodrama whose nuances she is initially poorly equipped to understand.

Review Roundup: English-Language REBECCA Premieres at Charing Cross Theatre Alun Hood, WhatsOnStage: Ultimately, not every story lends itself to the musical treatment, and with its low level menace and murky remembrances and recriminations, Rebecca might work better as a modern opera, something along the lines of Britten’s The Turn of the Screw. As a tuner stuffed with big belting numbers, it’s too sincere to be high camp (although the final image of Lane’s Danvers, her immaculate coiffure all let loose, processing up an apparently burning staircase for one last time, comes pretty close), and too schlocky to take seriously. This show has a passionate worldwide fan base which will probably grow even further here, but once was more than enough for me.

Review Roundup: English-Language REBECCA Premieres at Charing Cross Theatre Paul Vale, The Stage: The score isn’t really the problem here; nor are Kunze and Hampton’s lyrics, though they are pedestrian at best. Bonatto directs with a peculiar lack of imagination, struggling to find the right tone. Proceedings are irrevocably hindered by Nicky Shaw’s unwieldy set design, with ill-conceived decor and props. David Seldes’ colourless lighting design doesn’t help: much of the time, the hard-working cast can barely be seen through the abundance of haze. The blaze that destroys Manderley is reduced to a crimson wash and a chorus passing empty buckets. It’s a production that monumentally fails to do justice to its source material.

Review Roundup: English-Language REBECCA Premieres at Charing Cross Theatre Greg Stewart, Theatre Weekly: This English language debut of Rebecca is an admirably ambitious production that needs a bigger space to really ignite the story’s passion. The cast are truly wonderful, but it feels like they’re being held back by the production’s inability to live up to the scale it’s trying to achieve.

Review Roundup: English-Language REBECCA Premieres at Charing Cross Theatre Louise Penn, Loureviews: Did I like this show? As a devotee of the book, I appreciated what it was trying to do but didn’t feel the emotional engagement I expected. For those who don’t know the novel, this could be confusing despite its length (2 hr 15 plus interval). Does it work as a musical? While it is, thankfully, no Gone With The Wind, it is currently missing something despite some strong performances. It could do with quietly removing a number or two and is too bombastic for its venue.

Review Roundup: English-Language REBECCA Premieres at Charing Cross Theatre Chris Omaweng, LondonTheatre1: There are some very earnest attempts to maximise dramatic effect in this melodrama, which has very lush orchestrations – the production has already made headlines for having an eighteen-strong orchestra in a venue that seats a maximum of 265 – but an almost absurdly clunky set. The slotting together of set pieces and pulling apart of others could be audibly heard behind curtains that had been drawn across the stage during supposedly more private scenes. The stage-wide fixed staircase, regularly used throughout, wouldn’t look out of place at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane (capacity: 2,196), and the costumes are all suitably from the interwar period.

Review Roundup: English-Language REBECCA Premieres at Charing Cross Theatre Livvy Perrett, West End Best Friend: The most distracting elements of this show predominantly lie in the production design, a flaw that could be overlooked if it weren’t for the fact of this story being so intensely location focused, be it the setting Monte Carlo or the famously grand estate of Manderley. There is a preponderance of front-of-curtain scenes aided by projections which betray a profound lack of innovation and imagination in design and direction. The lighting and sound of this production also leaves a lot to be desired as it is difficult at times to both hear and see the actors on stage.

Review Roundup: English-Language REBECCA Premieres at Charing Cross Theatre Scott Matthewman, The Reviews Hub: Even with that, the psychological aspects of du Maurier’s work are replaced by melodrama that rarely manages to engage to the degree that the book, or Hitchcock’s film, managed so brilliantly. While the German language original has been lauded, one fears that its London version may be better one day lost to the waves.

Review Roundup: English-Language REBECCA Premieres at Charing Cross Theatre James Harvey, WhyNow: With a curiously deep and narrow auditorium paired with a comparatively tiny stage, any musical would struggle to muster the soul-baring atmosphere required to fill the space. With Rebecca, where a gothic, noir-y atmosphere is really half the charm, the production undoubtedly faced an uphill battle from the start. Unhelpfully, Alejandro Bonatto’s direction mistakenly tries to make the most of the space – the cast semi-regularly enter from the aisles, resulting in a lot of head-turning and neck-straining, which can’t help but feel a little amateurish.

Review Roundup: English-Language REBECCA Premieres at Charing Cross Theatre Kate Riley, London Theatre: Ultimately, this production of Rebecca needs some smoothing out. Sometimes, large-scale musicals can work better in a more intimate setting, such as From Here To Eternity, which ran at the same theatre last year, eight years after it ran in the West End. Kunze and Levay's musical feels like it should be performed on a grander scale (think Phantom of the Opera), which makes this production feel limited in what it can achieve.


Average Rating: 47.7%


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