The Dreamers – St James Theatre

This new musical transfers from Tunbridge Wells after impressing St. James theatre creative Director Robert Mackintosh so much that he offered them the week long slot. I attended on a charity gala performance and was joined in the audience by many ex-service personnel and even some Chelsea pensioners.

The musical written by James Beeny and Gina Georgio follows one soldier, Reggie, and his experiences of World War One. The pair wrote the musical after finding an old photo, and started with just one song before deciding to tell the whole story.

The action is presented with a mixture of a concert format, narrative projections and the occasional bit of dialogue between the cast. The telling of the story is mostly done through the projections which include head shots of famous names such as Michael Burke, Phillip Glenister and Amanda Redman, who was also one of the backers of the production. There wasn’t really enough dialogue or interaction between the cast, which was a shame, as when they were allowed to tell some of the story it felt much lighter and easier to watch rather than just a history lesson to music. One of the highlights was a song called “Lads on tour” which was a vaudeville type number reminiscent of the other world war classic musical ‘Oh What a Lovely War’. This was one of the only sections of light in an otherwise very dark show and allowed for some much needed humour.

The six piece band were very accomplished and including the creators of the piece, took centre stage to provide a hugely varied and interesting mix of music from Nirvana style rock to the occasional Schoenberg esq moments. It was lyrically proficient and although the music wasn’t of period, it did feel of the right mood throughout. I did find however, that the band distracted me from watching the cast’s on stage efforts.

The cast from the Tunbridge Wells production have all transferred with the show, so for most this marks their professional debuts. This was unfortunately quite apparent in places with the overuse of hand gesticulation and some really quite wooden stage movements. The standard of singing, however was very high with leading man Nick Pavely showing fabulous range and tonal qualities. The ensemble numbers were also well executed with some lovely harmonies which helped to showcase Beeny and Georgio’s melody lines.

This production shows promise but needs some more work to give it the impact they are aiming for.

Reviewed by Nicky Sweetland

The Dreamers is playing at the St James Theatre until 11 July 2015. Click here for tickets