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Review of Apartment 40C at St James Studio

Apartment 40c cast
From left: Alex James Ellison, Alex Crossley, Nova Skipp, Peter Gerald, Johnjo Flynn and Lizzie Wofford
Photographer: Matthew Lees

Ever wondered where the expression ‘if only these walls could talk, what a story they could tell’ came from? No, me neither and it’s probably not that important really. But the phrase is very apt when considering the new musical from London Theatre Workshop “Apartment 40C” which has recently transferred to the St James Studio in Victoria.

Apartment 40C” is the story of, well I can’t really say without giving away massive spoilers – as they say in “Urinetown” ‘nothing ruins a show like too much exposition. So, in order to ensure this isn’t the shortest review in history, I will give you the barest essentials which will hopefully be enough to whet your appetite.

I can say that “Apartment 40C” is set in an apartment on the 40th floor of a tower block in New York City. It is small, cramped and noisy, but the price is right and the neighbourhood lively – especially when steak knives are flying about – with a friendly Chinese takeaway on the corner.    Set Designer Justin Williams has brought together a very believable space that fits the St James Studio stage perfectly. When we first see the apartment, it is shabbily furnished and untidy – with moving boxes all over the place and letters on the floor. However, even with all the paraphernalia of a small apartment, there was still enough room for all six actors to be on stage without bumping into the furniture or each other. Over the course of the show, the apartment is inhabited by our cast (Alex Crossley, Alex James Ellison, Johnjo Flynn, Peter Gerald, Nova Skipp and Lizzie Wofford). In keeping with the ‘no spoilers’ principle,  I can’t tell you the names of the characters they play in the show – although, if it helps, three of them have names starting with an ‘E’ and three have names starting with a ‘K’. However, all six have a story to tell of their own personal moment in history within the apartment’s walls.

Penned by Director/Librettist & Lyricist Ray Rackham along with Composer/Musical Director Tom Lees “Apartment 40C” is not a West End blockbuster musical with massive ‘End of Act I’ and ‘finale’ numbers but instead has some really great and melodious musical numbers that enhance the narrative and give a wonderful depth of emotion to the stories unfolding before the audience. Whether a solo, duet, trio or the entire cast, each number fits into its slot beautifully and draws genuine feeling from the listener, with the last three songs, ‘Pocket Park’, ‘Time’ and ‘A Child’ working together both musically and lyrically, so well to produce a really emotionally charged ending.  The cast delivered their songs really well and made their characters highly believable. From the naive optimism of Alex’s character, though to the worldly-wise knowledge of Nova’s, each member of the team – and this really was a team – worked superbly with each other to deliver their piece of the jigsaw. Director/Librettist & Lyricist Ray Rackham moves the cast around with the deft touch of a chess master and there are some lovely little touches as props are moved unobtrusively from one person – and therefore one story to another – that really impressed me in their subtlety.

I was worried at the start about where we were heading with the story, it felt a little bit slow – certainly when compared to a traditional musical – and at the interval I was really intrigued as to how the show would end. But the second act, starting at the same moment the first ended, brought every strand together perfectly leaving me emotionally drained and at the same time knowing I had really seen something special.  Hopefully I haven’t given away too much in this review, because this is a show that needs to be experienced and there is only one way to do that. Ultimately “Apartment 40C” is a fabulous musical, and should be seen by anyone that has a love of superb musical theatre.

5 Star Rating

Review by Terry Eastham

Apartment 40c
Written by Artistic Directors of London Theatre Workshop, Ray Rackham (book and lyrics) and Tom Lees (music), a poignant and engaging musical that explores how relationships are affected by the endless possibility of choice.

Fresh from a critically-acclaimed, sell-out run at London Theatre Workshop, APARTMENT 40C transfers to the St. James Studio for one very special week in April. Told over the course of one evening, the musical examines decades of love, happiness, regret and loss; chances taken and opportunities missed; and how it is sometimes impossible to make any kind of distinction between the past and the present, and what might become.

Apartment 40c
6th to 12th April 2015
Running Time: 1 hour 55 mins plus interval


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