Michael Crawford is the big draw in this glum musical version of the classic novel
Can ‘Hamilton’ hurry up and come over here, pretty please? ‘The Go-Between’ is a perfectly tolerable night of entertainment, but there’s absolutely nothing in it to set the pulse racing: it feels like the perfect exemplar of how little the Brits have done to advance the musical genre since ‘London Road’ five years ago.
David Wood and Richard Taylor’s musical is a smart, compact and downcast chamber piece that is of course adapted from LP Hartley’s classic 1953 novel about Leo Colston, an old man looking back on the events of a remarkable summer that scarred him for life as a boy.
Roger Haines’s production offers moody lighting, period costumes, a sung-through, light-on-the-hooks score and Michael Crawford, hauled out of retirement to play the elderly Leo.
In their way, all these things are problematic. There’s a lack of big, stirring numbers; the period garb and small cast contributes to a general air of safeness; the excessive gloom feels misjudged.
In building a show around 74-year-old star Crawford, ‘The Go-Between’ loses much of the book’s innocence. As almost everything is a flashback to the summer of 1900, the elderly Leo must wander through it like a ghost, shadowing his younger self – ably played on press night by William Thompson – sighing out regret at events still to come. Having the big star continually singing the equivalent of ‘EVEYTHING’S GOING TO TURN TO SHIT LATER’ for two-and-a-half hours kills any sense of joy or childish excitement in Leo’s adventures, which are, after all, pretty innocent at first, as he naively acts as ‘postman’ between Gemma Sutton’s Marian and her clandestine working-class lover Ted (Stuart Ward). This focus on Leo’s grief also means other strands of the book – notably its comment on the class system – feel relatively played down.
If you’re explicitly here to see Crawford you probably won’t mind, and it is great that somebody is writing new musicals with substantial roles for older performers. But beyond that, it’s difficult to see what is the exact purpose of this muted, conservative show.
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Honestly don't know where to start with how disappointing this was. My sister's a big fan of the book, so I took her along for what I thought would be an amazing production (it stars the original Phantom, damn it!) but we were both utterly perplexed by what they've done with it.
Firstly, why is it a musical? The musical numbers are vague, unstructured and unmemorable (though distinctly jarring at the time) at best and downright cringey at worst.Secondly, it's way too slow to the point of boredom. Thirdly, poor Michael Crawford. He's a legend and they've given him a part that involves reading a diary, getting in everyone's way on stage and trying to hit notes that are too high for him.
If you like the book, or Michael Crawford, don't see this. Stay at home and read 'The Go Between' or watch 'Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em' instead.
Although I enjoyed this show to some extent I thought it was just the wrong choice of story for a musical. The music was excellent as was the singing and acting but there were moments when it really dragged because the story was interpreted in a very sentimental way. Fans of Michael Crawford will enjoy it for the novelty of seeing him play a new role in a major West End show but I personally got tired of his dewy eyed nostalgia after a while. The young actors playing Leo and Marcus are really watchable, fun and energetic characters and the crumbling grandeur of the set was a perfect setting for the heartbreaking tale of unrequited love. Those who have read the book will find this saccharine version of the story dissatisfying however, musical reduces it from an intense psychological drama to a slightly repetitive melodrama.
The story is beautifully told and nostalgia filled. The choral arrangements are haunting and so rich that it is easy to forget that a piano is the sole accompanist. The cast is simply outstanding.Michael Crawford was good, but the two boys Leo (William Thompson) and Marcus (Archie Stevens) were brilliant - so much so that I was disappointed that Marcus didn’t get his own curtain call. Gemma Sutton was also stunning as Marian, with a beautiful soprano voice. There simply wasn’t a weak link. In this musical, song and story telling melded so seamlessly and atmospherically.No one song stood out, but it didn’t need to.It was impossible not to be drawn in as the pace accelerated and the story reached its climax in the second half.A class act!