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EDINBURGH 2019: BWW Review: GILBERT AND SULLIVAN'S IMPROBABLE NEW MUSICAL: LESS MISERABLE, theSpace @ Niddry Street

EDINBURGH 2019: BWW Review: GILBERT AND SULLIVAN'S IMPROBABLE NEW MUSICAL: LESS MISERABLE, theSpace @ Niddry Street

EDINBURGH 2019: BWW Review: GILBERT AND SULLIVAN'S IMPROBABLE NEW MUSICAL: LESS MISERABLE, theSpace @ Niddry StreetIt's the sort of thought experiment of which musical theatre geeks are terribly fond: recreate a favourite musical with songs from others. With cute orphans, jolly drinkers, and a hooker with a heart of gold, Les Misérables has many of the hallmark tropes of the musical theatre form.

Even so, it's quite a task to imagine how Victor Hugo's story of redemption, religion and rebellion could be solely communicated through the works of Gilbert and Sullivan, The Kings Of light operas. That is the challenge that the Coily Dart Theatre Company have set themselves in their latest Fringe outing, and luckily one at which they succeed in style.

To contextualise this effort, Gilbert and Sullivan's Improbable New Musical: Less Miserable utilises a framing device, imagining the composer and dramatist in heaven, watching modern musicals and making a wager on whether they would work as Savoy Operas.

It works as a fun way to ease into the show, and there was the potential for further scenes and quips highlighting the influence of Gilbert and Sullivan. Nevertheless, the show has plenty to cover in its 60-minute run time as it dashes through G&S hits such as "My Eyes Are Fully Open" and "The Sun Whose Rays Are All Ablaze".

If some of the acting in dialogue scenes veers toward the cautious, the singing is confident and competent throughout. The ensemble of nine are exceptionally well-drilled, and direction by Sue Ellerby keeps the show flowing at a marvellous pace. Indeed, the show rarely left space for deserved applause, but the audience made sure to make up for this at the end.

There are also plenty of laughs at references to songs from both the G&S oeuvre and from Les Misérables, as well as the cliches and coincidences of light opera plots when Gilbert insists on making a few plot changes to ensure a happy ending. The cast play everything knowingly straight, with plenty of earnest looking into the middle distance.

If you've ever wondered if "A Heart Full of Love" could work as a patter song or which Les Mis character is most like a Pirate King, this is certainly a must see. By the nature of it, this is a show that will delight musical theatre aficionados, with knowing references played affectionately and classic songs well performed.

Equally, an extensive knowledge of Gilbert and Sullivan is not essential to enjoying the show, though an understanding of the Les Misérables plot makes it much more fun. Lovingly crafted and effectively realised, this is essential viewing for fans of the genre.

Gilbert and Sullivan's Improbable New Musical: Less Miserable is at TheSpace @ Niddry Street until 10 August.


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From This Author Amy Hanson