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BKLYN – The Musical streamed online | Review

The thing about watching a streamed production in the comfort of one’s own home is that one could, should it come to it, turn the volume down if the powerhouse vocals get a bit much. And they do get a bit much on occasion in BKLYN the Musical, or at least in this version of it. Shot as it was in what appears to be different rooms of the same building, the actors, wonderful as they are, are singing away at full tilt (as many of the musical numbers demand) in what comes across as an unnecessary wall of sound. They are, in effect, projecting to the back row of an upper circle that just isn’t there.

Full Cast of BKLN - credit Sam Diaz and Dean Johnson.
Full Cast of BKLN – credit Sam Diaz and Dean Johnson.

That said, it works well sometimes, such as in ‘Brooklyn in the Blood’, where Paradice (Marisha Wallace) and the title character Brooklyn (Emma Kingston) are at odds with each other. Ultimately, the show doesn’t say anything that the world of musical theatre hasn’t already said – possibilities in life are endless, irrespective of one’s background or upbringing, love is such a powerful force, and good things can happen to good people. Let’s not forget ‘triumph over adversity’, or as the show puts it, “…with our tears, we can water roses”. The word ‘miracles’ is somewhat overused these days, and one does wonder what the actual likelihood would be for Brooklyn to find her biological father in a world filled with billions of people and before the days of the likes of genealogy websites.

In 1969, Faith (Sejal Keshwala) came across Taylor Collins (Jamie Muscato) but their paths were not to cross again for reasons given in the narrative, a decent chunk of which is delivered by a man known only as Street Singer (Newtion Matthews), because he’s, um, a street singer, who leads a group of singers and musicians who live on the streets of New York called City Weeds.

It’s not made clear precisely why the City Weeds delve into this particular story (aside from the implied reasoning that they feel it’s a tale worth telling). Most of the marketing material for previous productions of the show reference a ‘play within a play’, which I find an odd description for a musical. Not a huge amount of set is needed with the level of narration given here, but the changes of scenery are nonetheless fitting. It is quite a tall order to attempt to replicate the atmosphere of a filled Madison Square Garden (capacity 20,000) but this production puts in a valiant effort.

There’s a lot that goes on, from diva-like displays of sassiness to what these days would be called post-traumatic stress disorder. And yet the characters are largely underwritten, and despite an early premise that there is both ‘truth’ and ‘fairy-tale’ in the plot, it’s not all that convincing. That, of course, is not the fault of the cast, who do brilliantly with what they are given. From a singing perspective, it’s delightful, provided that one doesn’t care for nuance, with even ballads building to a Very Big Finish. Because the volume is so high at the start, all this production can do is keep its foot on the accelerator.

Some of the lyrics are too repetitive, even by musical theatre standards. Practically every character could be fleshed out considerably more, and it was difficult at times to feel an emotional connection to the story. But it was, at least, heartfelt and seemingly fearless.

3 Star Review

Review by Chris Omaweng

Dean Johnson directs Sejal Keshwala (Faith), Emma Kingston (Brooklyn), Newtion Matthews (Street Singer), Jamie Muscato (Taylor) and Marisha Wallace (Paradice), with musical direction from Leo Munby, video editing by Sam Diaz, and production design by Andrew Exeter.

BKLYN – The Musical is a story within a story. On the outside, you have a troupe of incredibly talented street performers who are sharing a story from their lives… Then there is the story they tell – the story of a young girl who comes to the U.S. to find the father she never knew. Together these stories create a show that is both touching and inspiring – a real urban fairytale.

The production, filmed at the Ugly Duck space, will be available
22 March – 4 April 2021


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