‘Rebecca’ Review: Musical’s English-Language Debut Is a Remarkable Debacle
19.09.2023 - 20:25
David Benedict “What a terrible tragedy.” Indeed. That’s the lyric cried out as, in theory, the famously magnificent Cornish home at the heart of the story burns to the ground at the climax of the musical of “Rebecca.” Or, rather, when smoke is pumped into the auditorium, the frontcloth glows red and cast members race around to startlingly little dramatic effect.
Daphne du Maurier’s beloved, near-Gothic romance centers on a mystery – but the chief mystery here is what anyone thought they were doing entrusting a large-scale property (once famously destined for Broadway) to a 265-seat off-West End house with a creative team and production budget so woefully underfunded. The premiere of an English language version of Germany’s runaway musical hit (by bookwriter and lyricist Michael Kunze and composer Sylvester Levay) comes at a considerable production cost, immediately made plain by the 19-strong cast and the 18-piece band.
But anyone expecting the new production to be an automatic hit needs to think again: The multi-location plot, running from extravagant Monte Carlo hotel to washed-up Cornish beach hut via multiple grand interiors including a courtroom and a plot-crucial staircase, requires a level of investment and invention that are painfully missing from director Alejandro Bonatto’s production, which is eye-widening in all the wrong ways. In so small a theater with almost no wing space, activating the audience’s imagination with more abstract visuals could have yielded results.
But production designer Nicky Shaw opts instead for a thuddingly literal approach. Despite the libretto describing “priceless antiques and possessions,” locations are clumsily established via single items of furniture and large, poorly lit
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