The best piece of advice I was ever given when I started writing was always to find the reason the story needed to be told. Why is this story important for people to see, why do the characters need to be heard. Paper Hearts is this through and through. It is a story that so desperately needs to be seen and heard.
Liam O’Rafferty shows skills as a writer like I have never seen before. He impressively captures two very different styles in his music, portraying novelist Atticus Smith’s (Adam Small) modern reality and the world of his book, Angel Hearts. The modern reality is Pasek and Paul crossed with Once (the show is Actor Muso, an exceptionally fitting choice) and the other Fiddler on the Roof-esc. This allows us to move between the two worlds with ease and keeps us captivated and invested in the show as a whole. It is the very foundation of the show and the music is breathtakingly beautiful, as are the gorgeous arrangements sung by a powerful company. It is rare you see a show with no weak links, but the cast and musicians are so in sync that it is almost like poetry. I particularly enjoyed Jessica Pardoe the cellist and Ella Vize the Violinist who provided wonderful musicianship by continuing to be engaged in the piece, providing a warming support in the songs and scenes. The entire ensemble also performs impressive choreography with and without instruments that give the finishing touches to the piece.
It doesn’t, however, fall victim to relying on beautiful music and clever ideas which could so easily occur. The story is riveting and continues to twist and turn throughout. Adam Small perfectly portrays a character who has complete control in one world and yet is helpless in another. The part is practically written for him, his voice beautifully filling us to the brim and his Atticus Smith captures our hearts from the moment the play begins. He is an undeniable talent and an exceptional performer.
It would be a crime to ignore the wonderfully written female leads, Lily (Gabrielle Margulies) and Yanna (Sinéad Wall). It is so refreshing to find such perfectly sculpted strong female roles, and Margulies and Wall embody them in song and scene beautifully, supporting the more uncomfortable and awkward Atticus Smith and Issac (Matthew Atkins, yet another wonderful performer).
The show is a heart warming ode to literature, a gorgeous world that gives you the feeling you can usually only get when captured in the wonderful world the pages of a book can offer. It is one of the most groundbreaking shows I have seen in a long time, pushing boundaries, Paper Hearts is exactly what the musical theatre world needs. As I said, it is an extremely important show and needs to be seen. Small and Margulies are shining stars in the making, as is the show. It is a complete and utter success and I hope with all my heart it is performed for a long time to come. I cannot urge you enough to go and see it.
Reviewed by Kara Taylor Alberts (@karaalberts)