REVIEW: JOHN & JEN (Southwark Playhouse)

A brand new version of the Andrew Lippa and Tom Greenwald musical ‘John & Jen’ (with orchestrations by Jason Robert Brown & Andrew Lippa) is currently playing at the Southwark Playhouse in London – a short walk from Elephant and Castle tube station (3 stops from Charing Cross).

It is an emotional rollercoaster of a musical, in two parts, that explores the dynamics of family relationships.

Brother and sister, John & Jen (born seven years apart) grow up inseparable from each other, doing everything together. As the older of the two, Jen promises to always protect her brother from harm (and especially their abusive father) but as the two become older, the bond grows apart.

Twenty years later, Jen lives alone in Canada with her baby boy whom she has named John, a living memorial to the brother she failed to protect. But can she raise her son well enough to make up for not protecting her brother when he needed it most?

Rachel Tucker (who is due to go back to Broadway after this show ends to star in Come From Away) is, as usual, phenomenal. In this role she gets to show her brilliant comic timing and her voice is outstanding. We were all hoping for those infamous Elphaba high notes somewhere in the show and Rachel didn’t disappoint. Starring alongside her in a two person musical could be a daunting prospect but Lewis Cornay gives her a run for her money, matching her brilliant vocals and acting.

John & Jen is a lovely little show with some great songs that have a real Dear Evan Hansen vibe to them. It’s well worth a trip to the Southwark Playhouse to support off-west-end theatre and to get up close and personal with a huge west end star (Rachel Tucker) and future star in the making (Lewis Cornay).


Reviewed by West End Wilma