BWW Reviews: THIS IS MY FAMILY, Lyceum, Sheffield, 13 October 2014
The Sheffield Lyceum has reopened, following a £1.9 million refurbishment programme, and the show chosen to launch it was This is My Family, Tim Firth's musical that enjoyed a short and well-received run in the city's Crucible Studio theatre in 2013. This production, directed by Daniel Evans, reunites five of the six original cast members (Evelyn Hoskins, Bill Champion, Clare Burt, Terence Keeley, Rachel Lumberg) with Marjorie Yates taking over the role of grandmother May.
The musical, which will tour nationally following its Lyceum run, focuses on the lives, loves and labours of an ordinary family as they embark on one extraordinary holiday. The story is told through the eyes of teenager Nicky (Evelyn Hoskins) whose observations of her parents, brother, aunt and grandmother are in turns acerbic and poignant.
The musical successfully gets across the sense of life in a 'normal' family: its absurdities, tragedies, conflicts and celebrations, and it no doubt helps that the cast have performed this together before, as there is a real chemistry between the performers and this brings great energy to the scenes, allowing the audience to laugh, cry and reminisce along with them. I heard several members of the audience exclaiming at different points that Firth's observations were spot on and just like their own families.
Last time I reviewed the musical, I wondered about its ability to transcend the intimacy of a theatre like the Studio, but the lighting and design team have managed to make the production fill the stage, despite, for the most part, using the same multi-levelled staging as in the earlier version - creative use of furniture and lighting allows the domestic setting to expand, whilst the larger stage affords room for the live band to appear onstage alongside the cast.
When I saw the musical in 2013, I had some reservations about the score. I would like a little more variety in the songs, but their charms won me over more successfully this time, partly because the larger stage affords more theatricality in their performance, something Rachel Lumberg (Sian) and Bill Champion (Steve) in particular get to exploit in their solo numbers. Whilst the story is somewhat predictable, and one of the key plot threads (about Abu Dhabi) dropped with no explanation, the dynamics between the characters, the observational humour, and the effervescent performances of the cast, make this an enjoyable night out that is likely to please a wide audience.
This is My Family is at the Lyceum, Sheffield, until Saturday 18 October and tours nationally throughout October and November. Details here.