REVIEW: The Clockmaker’s Daughter (Cadogan Hall) ★★★★★

Following a successful run at the Landor Theatre in 2015, and on the back of a studio cast recording released earlier this year, “The Clockmaker’s Daughter” returned to London last week for a one-off concert performance at Cadogan Hall.

Essentially a modern-day fairytale, “The Clockmaker’s Daughter” tells the story of Constance, a mechanical creation made by the titular clockmaker Abraham, in an attempt to ease his grief after a recent loss. As the days pass, Constance quickly begins to learn, becoming a sentient being and discovering the unpredictable world of human emotions, weaknesses and fears. Fiercely protective of his new child and unwilling to risk losing her, Abraham keeps her hidden from the local townsfolk. Inevitably, Constance longs to see more of the world around her, and her curiosity takes her on a journey of love, rejection, hope and mortality, and the audience are swept along by her side.

Having missed the 2015 run (which I am now kicking myself for), seeing this new British musical performed with such skill and talent was an absolute joy. Co-written by Michael Webborn and Daniel Finn, “The Clockmaker’s Daughter” is a folk-tinged hybrid of Beauty & The Beast and Once with splashes of Frankenstein and Wicked. From the opening number (‘The Turning Of The Key’), the rich orchestral score is instantly accessible and inviting, and beautiful piano melodies guide the show’s more tender moments. There are soaring ballads that could easily slide straight into a Disney film, some livelier ensemble numbers for light relief, and even one or two darker numbers which remind us of the power of grief and man’s inevitable fear of someone who is different.

Some of the performers from the studio recording returned to give their characters new life, with Christine Allado and Fra Fee giving excellent performances as Constance and Will, the local boy she falls for. Fee found a charming warmth and likeability in Will, and Allado’s incredible voice lifted the already-strong ballads to new heights. Her performance of a machine learning to be human was heartfelt, believable, and incredibly strong. ‘Story Of My Own’ (Constance’s big Disney number) was one highlight among many, as were ‘Where You’ll Be’ and ‘If You Could See My Heart’, her duets with Fee, and the empassioned “Clockwork”.

The role of Abraham was played this time around by John Owen-Jones (Phantom Of The Opera, Les Miserables), who took the baton passed from Ramin Karimloo on the studio recording, and rose to the challenge with his trademark reliability and spectacular voice. He is one of the few male theatre performers who can deliver power and tenderness in the same breath with equal brilliance; his performance of the grief-driven ‘You’re Still Here’ was outstanding and kept resonating long after the applause had finally died down.

Also in the cast were Corrie’s Wendi Peters as brash dressmaker (and Will’s mother) Ma Riley, Graham Hoadly as the Mayor, Lauren James Ray as bride-to-be Amelia and Heathers’ Jamie Muscato as her charming groom-to-be (suavely channelling 90s-Hugh Grant). All did well, although it was a shame to see Muscato’s great voice side-lined as he only had a couple of lines to sing.

Special mention must also be given to the eight-strong ensemble cast, who gave uniformly strong performances, particularly as they didn’t have the hand-held scripts to rely on that the principals had.

When a musical brings a smile to your face, gives you goosebumps, brings a tear to your eye and makes you want to listen to the soundtrack as soon as you leave the theatre, it must be doing something right. When such a musical is an original creation, and British to boot, it should be celebrated from the rooftops. “The Clockmaker’s Daughter” is a charming, magical, uplifting journey that has a lot to say about the passing of time and asks what it means to be human, whether you’re made of cogs and clockwork or flesh and blood. It deserves to have a longer life in a fully-staged production, where its huge potential can be given the full spectacle that the music deserves. I for one will be watching the clock until that day comes.

Reviewed by Rob Bartley


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