BWW Review: THE SEASON, Royal & Derngate, Northampton
Once in a while, a musical comes along that truly reminds you why so many of us adore the art form. The show on this occasion is The Season, which officially opened at the Royal & Derngate in Northampton last night.
Spreading some early festive cheer, The Season is set in modern-day New York City at Christmas time. Dougal and Robin are thrown together in an unlikely situation whereby Dougal's Dad (who he's never met) is getting married to Robin's sister (with whom she has a strained relationship). Dougal has flown over to the States for the wedding, where he anticipates a big reunion with his estranged father in the city he has idolised through his love of Christmas films. But Robin knows more than she lets on...
Writers of The Season, Jim Barne and Kit Buchan, were the recipients of Stiles & Drewe's 2018 Mentorship Award and have since been developing the piece with their assistance and from audience feedback. What stands before us in Northampton is a fully staged musical, which has originality bursting at the seams. It is rare to see a brand-new piece whereby the story, music and staging work completely harmoniously, but The Season puts a large tick in this box. It encapsulates the magic of Christmas but also casts light on real life, which isn't always so rosy.
Amy Jane Cook's design ensures you never forget the New York setting - not that you could anyway with Dougal's excitement at being in the city for the first time! The revolve moves the story along from place to place, further aided by Simon Wilkinson's lighting, and is a very humorous tool in some instances. The three-piece band, led by Grant Walsh, perform the excellent score from an onstage balcony upstage, and the full sound the musicians create makes it seem like there are a lot more than just three of them.
Tim Jackson's direction is fast-moving and detailed when it comes to the characters, their backstories and journeys during the two-hour show. Tori Allen-Martin and Alex Cardall have both been cast perfectly as Robin and Dougal respectively. They are polar opposites in terms of character, with Dougal being a glass-half-full type person and Robin very much glass-half-empty.
Cardall has boundless amounts of controlled energy and is an extremely likeable character. His blurred lines between his father and Santa Claus are interesting to watch unfold and Cardall's chemistry with Allen-Martin is undeniable. Considering the weight of the show is on their shoulders, being a two-hander, it is very exposing, but both are faultless.
Robin is very cynical about Christmas and the world she lives in, but you come to realise that she is harbouring a tough past...and present, in fact. The Ice Queen's exterior cracks upon meeting Dougal, and her arc is possibly the most interesting. Allen-Martin's journey is astonishing to watch and her vocal tone is something incredibly special.
'Tis the season for a knockout new musical - joyful and refreshing.
Photo credit: Pamela Raith