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The Sorcerer’s Apprentice filmed at Southwark Playhouse | Review

This production of The Sorcerer’s Apprentice has nothing to do with the 2010 Walt Disney motion picture of the same name. It is a show that really needs to be experienced in person: the atmosphere that the staging and music create doesn’t, despite a sterling effort from the production team, come across on screen as well as it would in the theatre. But, at the end of the day, it is better (in the circumstances at the time of writing) to experience it this way than not at all.

Front row: Vicki Lee Taylor, Marc Pickering (Fabian Lydekker), Kayleigh Thadani. Back row: Ryan Pidgen and Tom Bales. Back left: David Thaxton (Johan Gottel)
Front row: Vicki Lee Taylor, Marc Pickering (Fabian Lydekker), Kayleigh Thadani. Back row: Ryan Pidgen and Tom Bales. Back left: David Thaxton (Johan Gottel).

The lighting, too, could have been somewhat brighter in places: and I don’t just mean scenes that are set outdoors at night, or where for narrative purposes there is no visible sunlight. Many of the musical numbers are easy on the ears, with standout performances (for me) from David Thaxton and Mary Moore as Johan Gottel and his daughter Eva respectively.

The show title is curious as there isn’t (spoiler alert) any apprenticing that goes on. It is the sort of musical best enjoyed by simply letting proceedings wash over you: the plot proceeds too slowly to warrant having one’s thinking cap on throughout, and despite the other-worldliness of the show and its characters, it’s easy to understand what is going on. If anything, it’s a little too over-explanatory, with (for instance) brooms being described as brooms. Still, I suppose it’s better than on stage brooms being described as something other than brooms.

There’s a wonderful explanation in the form of a big song and dance number called ‘Let There Be Light’ as to what it is Fabian Lyddeker (an engaging Mark Pickering) and his Lyddeker Industries group of companies do, and some at-home exchanges between him and his mother Lamia (Dawn Hope) are a hoot. Some other characters, however, seem somewhat underdeveloped: despite teenager Eva’s strong protestations all the way through the first half about her home life, what happens to the father-daughter relationship is frankly as predictable as night following day.

There is a moralistic tone that underpins the storyline. Without giving too much away, there’s an environmental-related major incident that affects everybody “in an old and distant land”, though environmentalists are unlikely to be impressed by the proposed remedy, particularly as it serves no practical purpose in the real world. Suspending one’s disbelief at the theatre door (or, to be precise, the login page), however, there is much to be said for heartfelt humility in the face of severe adversity.

The orchestrations are very good, and when they aren’t very good, they are remarkable. I found the second half more engaging than the first, perhaps because both a wider breadth and greater depth of emotion emanate from the characters, both individually and collectively. Some very minor refinements wouldn’t go amiss, but otherwise, it’s a show I would be happy to see again. An agreeable and charming production.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

‘The Sorcerer’s Apprentice’, by Richard Hough and Ben Morales Frost, directed by Charlotte Westenra (‘The Wicker Husband’, Watermill) explores the extraordinary world of a sorcerer and his rebellious daughter, as she discovers the explosive possibilities of her newfound magical powers.

Against the backdrop of the Northern Lights, a small town has been pushed to the brink of collapse in a bid for progress and prosperity. To rescue Midgard from certain destruction, father and daughter must heal their relationship and work together. This gripping family-friendly story sees brooms coming to life and love blossoming anew.

Acclaimed musical theatre writers Richard Hough and Ben Morales Frost have created this gender-swapped twist on the timeless poem by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, which also inspired the Dukas symphony that memorably featured in the Disney film ‘Fantasia’.

The birth of this magical new musical has been a five-year journey for producer James Seabright.

Nicola Blackman (‘Destry Rides Again’, Donmar Warehouse – Olivier nomination, Best Supporting Actress)
Dawn Hope (‘Follies’, National Theatre, West End shows include ‘The Scottsboro Boys’ and ‘Porgy And Bess’)
Mary Moore a recent graduate making her professional stage debut
Marc Pickering (Cat in the Hat in ‘Seussical’, Southwark Playhouse; Enoch Thompson in HBO’s ‘Boardwalk Empire’)
Yazdan Qafouri (‘The Band’, West End and UK tour, ‘The Wicker Husband’, Watermill Theatre)
David Thaxton (Olivier Award winner for ‘Passion’, Donmar Warehouse; Pilate in ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’, Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre; The Phantom in ‘The Phantom of the Opera’, West End)

Ensemble: Tom Bales, Ryan Pidgen, Vicki Lee Taylor, Kayleigh Thadani

Creative Team:
Writer Richard Hough
Composer & Orchestrator Ben Morales Frost
Director Charlotte Westenra
Musical Director Alan Williams
Choreographer Steven Harris
Puppetry Director Scarlet Wilderink
Set and Costume Designer Anna Kelsey
Lighting Designer Clancy Flynn
Sound Designer Ella Wahlstrom
Puppetry Designer Maia Kirkman-Richards
Magic Consultant Scott Penrose
Associate Producer King’s Head Theatre

James Seabright presents
‘The Sorcerer’s Apprentice’
a new musical
by Richard Hough and Ben Morales Frost

directed by Charlotte Westenra
Streaming dates – Fri 26 Feb – Sun 14 Mar 2021


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