WORTH A LOOK?: *****
WHERE? Greenwich Theatre RUNTIME: 130 minutes (including 20-minute interval)
WHEN? press night 30/9, closes 19/10/19 (press ticket)
‘When you change someone’s life, you change your own’, is the sentiment of this European premiere of a show which breaks your heart before helping you to piece it back together again, beautifully.
- Read on for reasons including why this press night deserved its standing ovation plus this five stars (and stripes) review
The musical opens as we meet the City Weeds, five homeless street performers, in modern-day Brooklyn whose play-within-a-play starts in Paris in 1969 when a dancer meets a musician and they fall in love.
He leaves her, she has his baby and that child, Brooklyn, is left with a haunting lullaby of a song that only her father knows all the words to as her mother leaves her.
The programme references Annie, Madame Butterfly and Rent as touchstones but this wouldn’t have had the Broadway success it did – running for a year in 2004 and 2005 – without a hugely memorable score, a brassy sense of humour as well as a scene so moving it left us in tears.
it wouldn’t be so successful in this incarnation without its five-strong cast who are all excellent soloists but, hugely important here, also work brilliantly in duets and group numbers.
Brooklyn, Hiba Elchikhe (a name to watch out for, pictured centre above) travels to New York in the Shakespearean play-within-a-play to search for her father (John Addison, far left, convinces in a difficult role) and squares up against the fierce diva Paradice (Emily-Mae, far right, has the show stopping number Raven).
Shout outs also to Sabrina Aloueche who has much work to do making a tough role sympathetic as Brooklyn’s mother and Street singer Andrew Patrick-Walker who, as the heart and soul of the piece, narrated it with charisma, charm and aplomb.
The music has the rock of Rent but has real soul and is even unafraid to go gospel. We were reminded of the great Whitney Houston by the power of Paradice (‘I was born with just a pair of dice around my neck’) singing about being a ‘raven in a sky of doves’ and challenging the audience with the great line: ‘I’ll make you love to hate me’.
Brooklyn has a book, lyrics and music by Mark Schoenfeld and Barri McPherson. The duo wrote the musical after Schoenfeld fell on hard times and McPherson, a friend from his past, heard him singing on the street one day. She invited him to live in her home and the two of them subsequently wrote Brooklyn.
The Christmas references made us think this would work brilliantly as counter-programming in that season and this production is so worth seeing it fully deserves a transfer.
The press night audience loved this so much it earned a standing ovation – and we were so swept up by this musical about the ‘United Streets of America’ that we give it both five stars (and stripes).