Escaping from a destructive relationship with her creative-writing tutor, Charlotte flees to New York to pursue a career as a writer – but rapidly finds herself a little fish in the Big Apple.
Michael John LaChiusa’s new musical follows Charlotte’s life in a freeform fashion, jumping backwards and forwards in time but cleverly using her changing relationship with cigarettes to help the audience keep track of the chronology. Maybe as a result of the source material (a series of short stories by writer Deborah Eisenberg), the overall effect is rather more of a series of interrelated vignettes than the strong narrative line that seems to be intended.
Julia Worsley’s accomplished central role adds much-needed cohesion to the various story strands. Around her, a strong cast is dominated by Laura Pitt-Pulford as the perky Kathy. Nick Cunningham’s choreography provides some impressive routines within the Finborough’s limited space, most notably as Ashley Campbell’s womanising John Paul adds heat to a theatre which already feels more like an oven.
Bec Chippendale’s ingenious foldaway set, decorated in a range of aquatic blue hues, provides an elegant frame to a collection of technically accomplished, well-performed songs. Ultimately, though, the professionalism of cast and crew cannot dull the feeling that there is something missing where this show’s heart should be.
Reviewed for The Stage
Finborough, London, October 29-November 21
Author: Michael John LaChiusa, based on short stories by Deborah Eisenberg
Director: Adam Lenson
Producer: JQ and Treasuretrove in association with Neil McPherson for the Finborough Theatre by arrangement with Josef Weinberger Limited
Cast: Ashley Campbell, Michael Cantwell, Katie Foster-Barnes, Nick Holder, Alana Maria, Laura Pitt-Pulford, Lee William-Davis, Julia Worsley
Running time: 1hr 35min