BWW Review: BROOKLYN - THE MUSICAL, Greenwich Theatre
Greenwich Theatre - outwith its famous panto - is not the easiest place in which to generate excitement, its long bank of seats deadening atmosphere and distancing us from what's going on way down there on the stage.
Not so with Brooklyn - The Musical, whose ragtag bunch of street entertainers (City Weeds, they call themselves) pushed up from under the sidewalk and blasted it all the way back to the Cutty Sark.
And they needed to really, because the book is about as sentimental and schlocky as it comes (Parisian orphan with daddy issues faces off against kickass local in reality TV style, winner-takes-all singing competition at Madison Square Garden).
Mark Schoenfeld and Barri McPherson's play-within-a-play's paper-thin plot takes an eternity to tell, with backstories as riddled with holes as the victims of the St Valentine's Day Massacre, and a narrator who keeps popping up to tell us what we've already worked out slowing it still further. You can snooze through those sections about the city that never sleeps.
But it doesn't really matter, since what Schoenfeld and McPherson lack in narrative drive, they more than make up for with great songs, belted out by West End-level talents.
The boys are fine - John Addison as the junkie absent father, Taylor, and Andrew Patrick-Walker as the street singer who should really stick to the singing. So far so good - though it's the girls who go big in the Big Apple.
Sabrina Aloueche does what she can with her underwritten waitress / dancer Faith the abandoned mother of Brooklyn, but I get the feeling the writers really just wanted to get on to the two women who tear the place up.
Annie Brooklyn has some clichéd lines to deliver with a straight face, but knocks it so far out of Yankee Stadium with the songs that all is forgiven. She uses a body mic of course, but belts and belts and belts. So too Emily-Mae as Beyoncé babe with attitude, Paradice, provoking whoops and whistles as she wrings every last drop of divaish magic from her numbers.
For all its faults, this European premiere of the 2004 Broadway show has been an inexplicably long time coming, given how Simon Cowell has successfully peddled this stuff year after year - usually with far inferior singers on their journeys.
For all its "Heart Behind These Hands" love for those stuck on the margins of society, this is a show about the performances and they are undeniably fantastic. So it might make you think, but it'll definitely make you smile. And maybe even whoop.
Photo Pamela Raith