D-Day, the Blitz, Churchill, and the bombing of the East End of London; everything you might expect from a new musical set during the Second World War. ‘V for Victory’, delivers up something different, instead telling the less recanted story of the Nazi invasion of a British territory, the Channel Islands, and in particular, the occupation of Jersey. Focusing on this lesser known front of WW2, this musical tells an almost unspoken story – at least here in mainland Britain – but for the islanders, it was a very real front of the war and a very real invasion, which lasted for the duration.
Of course, it’s a challenge producing a musical with a Nazi twist, the opportunity for offence is so great as to be viewed from afar. Swastikas were completely absent from the set and costume, which made the evening a little more palatable and yet the brutality of the Nazi regime was captured perfectly in Klemens Koehring as Colonel Stolzmann, high command of the Germany army in Jersey. Top marks in this show must go to Alex Wadham for his inspired performance as Captain Schneider, Nazi-dogsbody to the Colonel. Now, I am not, dear Reader, a producer or a casting director, but I cannot think it harms a musical, in anyway, if you cast someone who looks a little like, and sings very much like, Alfie Boe. Alex’s vocal performance throughout was, quite frankly, stellar. I can already hear the crackling of embers as Sir Cam stokes the ‘24601’ branding iron.
Leading actors, Aaron Bannister-Davies (as Thomas Carter) and Georgina Rose Hanson (as Liz Edwards) shone throughout. Aaron is an exceptionally talented actor with a great singing voice, he gave everything to the role of the love-struck co-hero, and it showed. Coping with a tiny wardrobe malfunction, involving a pair of clip-on braces admirably (we’ve all been there), Aaron was superbly cast in the role. Aaron’s love interest, daughter of the Bailiff, and co-hero, Liz, is played remarkably well; Georgina’s ability to develop Liz’s character from the shy and retiring Bailiff’s daughter, at the opening, into the feisty and independently-minded co-hero shows a real and deep understanding of the role. Georgina’s vocal strength does not quite match Aaron’s and getting the music levels right to complement both singers is a little challenging at points during their shared ballads.
The rest of the cast perform well, with no more than a couple of occasions when vocal performances suffered. A very innovative use of wooden crates as the set provides for a bar and cellar room, as well as props for bigger musical numbers, when needed. The formula of music, book and lyrics, from; Anthony Orme, Gunther Fiala, and Dries Janssens, is good and works well for most of the show. There were moments when the songs seemed a little repetitive and cutting or substituting one of the plentiful ballads for a more rousing song would definitely help the second-half of the show.
Overall; this is a winner, and with a few minor tweaks could achieve great things and a fifth star.
Reviewed by Lee Knight