Dessa Rose

  • Theatre
  • West End
0 Love It
1/15
© Scott Rylander

'Dessa Rose'

2/15
© Scott Rylander

'Dessa Rose'

3/15
© Scott Rylander

'Dessa Rose'

4/15
© Scott Rylander

'Dessa Rose'

5/15
© Scott Rylander

'Dessa Rose'

6/15
© Scott Rylander

'Dessa Rose'

7/15
© Scott Rylander

'Dessa Rose'

8/15
© Scott Rylander

'Dessa Rose'

9/15
© Scott Rylander

'Dessa Rose'

10/15
© Scott Rylander

'Dessa Rose'

11/15
© Scott Rylander

'Dessa Rose'

12/15
© Scott Rylander

'Dessa Rose'

13/15
© Scott Rylander

'Dessa Rose'

14/15
© Scott Rylander

'Dessa Rose'

15/15

'Dessa Rose'

‘Dessa Rose’ is a brutal musical with some red-raw scenes that will rip right through you. It is about slavery and friendship, set amid the American plantations and penned by the ‘Ragtime’ dream team of Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty. This is its European premiere and it’s a tight production, lit up by some brilliant singing. It’s just a shame about the shaky second half.

Director Andrew Keates is a pro at pulling off big musicals in small spaces. Garance Marneur keeps his set minimal, with little more than a dirt-stained wall and some evocative lighting. Twelve singers, plus the band, squeeze on to the tiny stage and belt out Flaherty’s rich soul music with precision and passion. The harmonies pile on top of each other and, particularly in the blazing song ‘We Are Descended’, it sounds like the whole world is singing for us.

Cynthia Erivo is phenomenal as the titular Dessa Rose, who is born into slavery and thrown into jail but never stops fighting for freedom. Erivo recently starred in ‘I Can’t Sing!’ and is so talented that she could make a phone book sound good. She is backed up brilliantly by Cassidy Janson who plays the conflicted white girl Ruth and invests her role with both haughtiness and compassion.

The cast can’t be faulted but the musical overall is dodgy. The second half is one big tangent, packed with random ghosts and forgotten plot threads. But it’s still worth experiencing for the singing. I will never forget Erivo’s performance of ‘Twelve Children’, blasting out their real names – dropped by their ‘masters’ but restored in song.

Average User Rating

5 / 5

Rating Breakdown

  • 5 star:1
  • 4 star:0
  • 3 star:0
  • 2 star:0
  • 1 star:0
LiveReviews|1
1 person listening
Amber M

Last night was opening preview of Dessa Rose at Trafalgar Studios, the cast includes John Addison, Edward Baruwa, Sharon Benson, Alexander Evans, Cameron Leigh, Fela Lufadeju, Gabriel Mokake, Abiona Omonua and Jon Robyns, without forgetting Cynthia Erivo as Dessa Rose and Cassidy Janson a white girl who is left by her husband trying to fulfil herself and follow her heart, Ruth. The night was an emotional roller coaster facing the struggles of slavery and freedom. Erivo's portrayal of Dessa Rose was intriguingly brilliant and her rendition of 'Twelve Children' touched my heart and nearly brought me too tears. Edward Baruwa playing Nathan also a black escapee slave erupted the second act with laughter filling the theatre, the strength of his voice blew me away and created a hopefulness for the second act on the road to freedom and change. Andrew Keates direction made the show come together to tell the ongoing story of Ruth's and Dessa's route to friendship, when the bows began the audience were on their feet with appreciation to the onstage musician and musical director Dean Austin and what was remarkably an amazing production of Dessa Rose and a definite must see for theatre goers everywhere.

-Louise May