Runner Bean Production’s new musical, The Dreamers, written and composed by James Beeny and Gina Georgio, was said to have moved audiences when it premiered at The Assembly Hall Theatre October last year. Now it has made a debut at St. James Theatre hoping to bring the same reaction to audiences through an emotional tale of soldiers and families during the outbreak of the First World War. It focuses on Captain David ‘Reggie’ Salomons of the Third Field Company who led the regiment in the Battle of Gallipoli. It includes smaller plot lines to add to Reggie’s heroic narrative. But the show, on the whole, isn’t as successful as it is less musical and more history lesson wrapped in a gala type concert.
The production is a mishmash of many things from on-screen narration by some famous faces to, some, good numbers sung by 20 amateur performers with 6-piece contemporary band, Virgin Soldiers. The music is catchy and may encourage audiences to clap their hands and sing along to the easy-to-remember words, but the music seems less connected with the actual storyline. Also, there was no link between the story and what the audience was looking at. Dressed in contemporary clothes, the Virgin Soldiers load on some energetic songs but they hoover behind the cast who are dressed in WWI costumes. Plus, there’s no set design, at all!
To add to the muddled presentation, it is hard to see who is who even though there is meant to be a storyline, so audiences are left viewing the show as an insight into WWI of how the war affected Britain: children; mothers; wives; and soldiers, with cello, violin, acoustic piano and guitars in the background. Also the audio sounds and on-screen narrations by celebrities from Sue Holderness, Sylvia Syms, Michael Buerk, Martin Bell and Philip Glenister seem shoved in just to add a dash of unnecessary sparkle.
The performers give their best and it is impressive to see young children sing to a good standard, but overall The Dreamers falls short of many things that fail to excite an audience. It will undoubtedly touch a nerve for those personally affected by WWI as it will display pictures and footage from the 1914-15, but as a musical, it just doesn’t work.
Review by Mary Nguyen
In the year that commemorates 100 years since the Battle of Gallipoli, Runner Bean Productions presents The Dreamers, which will receive its London debut at the St James Theatre from June 30 – July 11, with press night on 1 July 2015.
With original words and music by James Beeny and Gina Georgio, this new musical tells the true story of war hero Captain David ‘Reggie’ Salomons who led his regiment Third Field Company to Gallipoli in 1915.
This unique piece of theatre features a 6-piece contemporary band, ‘Virgin Soldiers’, a cast of 20 young men and women and on-screen narration from Amanda Redman, Christopher Beeny, Sir Tim Rice and others.
Set during 1914-15, The Dreamers sees the outbreak of the First World War through the eyes of the soldiers and the families they left behind. As Captain Salomons prepares his men for battle, one soldier Jack Hastings grows jealous of his popularity and position, and, unsettled by the prospect of what lies ahead of them, tries to stir trouble amongst the men. A 12-year-old boy is desperate to join the army, not wanting to be left out of the great ‘adventure’. Everyday women become nurses and factory-workers. The War Cabinet is forced to make impossible decisions.
This emotional tale of courage and heroism brought audiences of all ages to their feet and moved many to tears when it premiered at The Assembly Hall Theatre, Tunbridge Wells, in October 2014.
Anna Whitworth, great-niece of Captain Salomons said of the project: “I was astonished to see that a musical had been written about Reggie, especially as so few people have heard of him. I am delighted to see his story celebrated in this way and I hope he, and so many others, will always be remembered“.
30th June – 11th July 2015
St. James Theatre
12 Palace Street, London SW1E 5JA
Box Office: 0844 264 2140
Thursday 2nd July 2015