Review, Rebecca, Charing Cross Theatre, London by James Ellis    

Photo credit: Mark Senior

 out of 5 stars (2 / 5)

After a hefty scandal in its original outing, the German take on the classic English book Rebecca as a musical has finally made it to London. Sadly, the curse which is synonymous with the story still leaves it mark…

The elegance and intrigue of Daphne Du Maurier’s tale has not translated well in this staging by Alejandro Bonatto. There is something of a pantomime about the whole thing. I can assume the budget was right for this, even with some practical use of quite a small stage, designer Nicky Shaw should get a shoutout for this. The songs by Michael Kunze and Sylvester Levay have some charm and passion, but remain remarkably old fashioned. Precise extracts from the novel are present, yet it’s the generic vocal line and unappealing melodies which stand out. I spent over 14 hours listening to the audio book and it’s amazing how much was the story just stops and starts on stage. This tension does not always work when you have to take a break with songs.

The cast are vocally fine, with what they are given. I was pleased with the loud and proud ensemble who play the service staff, salty sailor types and Monte Carlo snobs. Our leading lady is never given a first name, the mark of Rebecca as Mr de Winter’s first wife looms over all. As “I”, said second wife is Lauren Jones who works well in the unassuming role. She puts up with a lot, curiously there is no mention of children or plans for any from either wife. Elements of Jane Eyre cannot be denied either. As Maxim de Winter, I wasn’t so convinced with Richard Carson, though dashing and subtly spoken. I didn’t really get the outbursts nor mental anguish from his time with Rebeca and here death. A singing voice that felt quite Les Mis, marginally less depressing than that show.

Kara Lane had fun as Mrs Danvers, perhaps the most fascinating living character in the story. Obsessed with Rebeca whom she always cared for, her singing reach absurd moments belting out the title characters name, some of the best moments in the show. The supporting cast varied from compassion to miscast. Some problematic aspects…the role of Ben who feels quite Sondheim like was played with conviction from an adorable David Breeds, his broken, mysterious, lines signs straight from the book. Sarah Harlington as Beatrice might be the best suited for any of these roles, Piers Bate as Frank Crawley getting little time to show sympathy in the ongoing scandal. Emily Apps as Clarice and Alex James-Ward as Rebecca’s cousin also worked well in the scattered pacing.

Its rare that I’m annoyed with a show. Rebeca deserved better.

Rebecca runs at Charing Cross Theatre till 18th November 2023.

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