Whisper House

Theatre, Musicals St James Theatre , St James's Park Until Saturday May 27 2017
  • 2 out of 5 stars
  • 2 out of 5 stars
(3user reviews)
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 (© Johan Persson)
1/7
© Johan Persson

Dianne Pilkington, Simon Bailey, Nicholas Goh, Simon Lipkin and Niamh Perry

 (© Johan Persson)
2/7
© Johan Persson

Nicholas Goh, Simon Lipkin and Dianne Pilkington

 (© Johan Persson)
3/7
© Johan Persson

Simon Bailey, Dianne Pilkington. Nicholas Goh and Niamh Perry

 (© Johan Persson)
4/7
© Johan Persson

Simon Bailey, Fisher Costello-Rose, Niamh Perry

 (© Johan Persson)
5/7
© Johan Persson

Simon Bailey, Fisher Costello-Rose, Niamh Perry

 (© Johan Persson)
6/7
© Johan Persson

Simon Bailey, Nimah Perry

 (© Johan Persson)
7/7
© Johan Persson

Simon Bailey, Simon Lipkin

Halloween's come early with this thin, spooky musical experiment from Duncan Sheik

The ‘ghost musical’ is a niche genre indeed. And this strange show composed by Duncan Sheik – he of ‘Spring Awakening’ and ‘American Psycho’ fame – doesn’t prove much of an addition to the category.

Set against the backdrop of World War Two, it sees a young boy moving into his aunt’s lighthouse in Maine, which is haunted by two would-be lovers whose ship sank nearby. He also stumbles into a tense triangle concerning a Japanese man harboured by the aunt, and a hardbitten sheriff whose anti-immigrant sentiments feel disturbingly resonant.

Adam Lenson’s atmospheric production features an impressive cast of West End regulars, including Simon Bailey and Niamh Perry as the ghosts, Dianne Pilkington as the aunt and Simon Lipkin as the sheriff. But their collective vocal prowess can’t save a dreary score that is disappointing next to Sheik’s other rock-infused work, and the inert lyrics of Kyle Jarrow (the line ‘you’d be better off dead’ is repeated so many times I began to believe it myself).

It’s a pity the material is so weak, because the production serving it is really quite impressive. A seven-strong band sound excellent in The Other Palace’s cosy confines, while designer Andrew Riley’s tiered, sunken stage nicely evokes the lighthouse setting. There’s some neat stagecraft too, with floating teacups and spooky projections emphasising the show’s other-worldliness.

New theatre The Other Palace has a commendable mission to unearth and nurture new and forgotten musicals. But there are much better offerings in the recent American canon than this, which premiered Stateside in 2010. Despite occasional glimpses of what could be a really interesting and original chamber piece, in the end ‘Whisper House’ is not a show worth shouting about.

By: Theo Bosanquet

Posted:

Venue name: St James Theatre
Contact:
Address: 12 Palace St
London
SW1E 5JA
Transport: Tube: Victoria; Rail: Victoria
Price: £15-£39.50, Apr 6-17 previews £10-£35
To improve this listing email: feedback@timeout.com

Average User Rating

1.7 / 5

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LiveReviews|3
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John C
tastemaker

I rather liked the show, but felt let down by the under-development of the project.

There was a successful "ghostly" atmosphere created by a very capable cast, and very much helped by a fine group of musicians.

But unfortunately the project needs more work.

Maybe Andrew LLoyd Webber (who now runs the theatre) could have helped them out.

Adrian H
Tastemaker

My partner and I were really looking forward to seeing The Whisper House. The idea of a rock musical, set during the Second World War, in a haunted lighthouse in America, which looks at the tensions of the time between American and Japan through the relationships of the characters, sounded right up our street. Unfortunately, the premise did not live up to the end-results.


The songs were derivative and filled with some rather poor rhyming, the story lacked any real edge, tension, or character development. A number of threads where left wide open and most of the characters did not find a resolution to their backstory.


I, however, cannot fault the musicians or the actors who put one a fantastic performance, and it is just a shame that the base material was so poor.


I feel with a different ending with some tragedy, in the form of the death of a character, and with the release of the ghosts from their eternal torment may have provided a more satisfying watch, unless this is just the first part in a series and there is more to come!

Richard N
Tastemaker

It's not easy to follow up a musical as successful as Spring Awakening with another. So it's understandable that Whisper House pales in comparison to Duncan Sheik's other musical about sexually German teenagers. Whisper House has quite a different subject matter, a gothic horror type musical set in a haunted lighthouse during the war. 


A young boy with a recently deceased pilot father and a mother sent to the asylum comes to live with his aunt Lily and her Japanese helper Yasuhiro, while being haunted by the ghosts of doomed lovers who also happen to be singers, and also befriends the local straight shooting Sheriff. To be honest, Whisper House has a ton of potential, and Sheik's compositions are great here, creating a ton of atmosphere in addition to the great lighting and projections in the round stage, claustrophobic and spooky. 


But where Whisper House fails is in its writing. Much of the plot feels like it's being rushed through, and there is little reason to really care for any of these characters, who leave little emotional resonance as they move through the plot. Sheik's lyrics are also oddly clunky, and often feel completely wrong, and though interesting enough in terms of score, there are few standout pieces that really allow Whisper House to leave an impression. Still, Niamh Perry and Simon Bailey do their darndest with their material as the ghosts and seem to be having a lot of fun flitting around the stage, and Simon Lipkin as the Sheriff brings some much needed energy to the otherwise dead and hackneyed play. 


Feeling more like an experiment gone wrong than a fully thought out musical, there's glimpses of a potentially much better production, but unfortunately, might be best left to drown amidst the slew of better musicals out there.