The world premiere of Sousatzka is currently playing in Toronto, Canada, ahead of a planned stint on Broadway in October 2017. Try-out runs like this are much more common in America and Canada than in the UK and gives show the opportunity to see what works and what doesn’t on stage and make changes along the way so that when it hits the big stage on Broadway, it is the best possible version of itself.
Sousatzka is a new musical, based on the book by Bernice Rubens. The book was adapted into a 1988 film starring Shirley MacLaine and has now been turned in to a musical starring Tony Award winner Victoria Clark. Themba is a South African refugee with a talent for playing the piano. His Russian piano teacher (Madame Sousatzka) is from an upper class background whilst Themba and his mother Xholiswa struggle through life. There is a clash of classes between mother and teacher and a rift is created between the two women which threatens to ruin Themba’s bright future.
The problem with Sousatzka is that I just don’t know who is going to go and see it. Who is the show trying to aim itself at? With influences of Africa and Eastern Europe but set in London, with a cast of 47 Americans/Canadians, it is a strange melting pot of cultures. The music is nice but forgettable and whilst the story is interesting on paper, at over three hours long, Sousatzka is a pleasant but difficult watch. I also worry that the title of the show may not grab people’s attention when browsing what to go and see.
Hopefully the issues in Sousatzka will be ironed out before the show hits Broadway in October. There is a lot of promise but feels like it really needs to go back to the drawing board and start from scratch with a goal in mind of what is wanted to be achieved.
Reviewed by West End Wilma
Photo: Cylla von Tiedemann
Sousatzka plays at Elgin Theatre, Toronto until 9 April 2017, ahead of a Broadway run scheduled for October 2017