Life & Culture

Theatre review: The Sorcerer’s Apprentice

This new musical is fun, but needs work, says John Nathan


The Sorcerer's Apprentice. Southwalk Playhouse. CREDIT Geraint Lewis


If you were a writer of musicals looking for a new subject, would you choose source material that had already inspired a popular symphony? It takes a while for the sweet score in this new British musical by book and lyric writer Richard Hough and composer Ben Morales Frost to suppress this nagging question.

And then it takes a little longer for their song Rise of the Brooms to demonstrate that homage is being paid where it is due — to the Dukas symphony to which, in Disney’s version of Goethe’s poem, Mickey Mouse created havoc.

Here the rumpus is actually caused by Eva, who is both the sorcerer’s daughter and apprentice, played by the very promising Mary Moore in her debut. Set in a mythical realm of Midgard — actually a small town here — Eva is the only child of a single-parent sorcerer, played by musical theatre heavyweight and former Phantom David Thaxton.

We learn that his power is drawn from the Northern Lights, a phenomenon which local industrialist and all round bad egg Fabian (a comically dastardly Marc Pickering) harnesses to light homes, causing environmental damage similar to global warming.

The show was to open in front of an audience but rather than put off the première it arrived this week in streamable form, the performance at least filmed on the stage. It feels like a work in progress. The songs are pretty much there. What’s lacking is that they sit in a narrative that generates little of the emotional heft that a song needs to justify its existence.

Personal histories — especially the magician’s — pop up like rabbits out of a hat cueing heartfelt musicalised emoting about hitherto thinly drawn relationships. Central are the estranged father and daughter who seem to get on much better than they appear to think.

Still, the environmentally friendly theme couldn’t be better suited to our times, and Pickering and Thaxton anchor Charlotte Westenra’s production with commanding performances. Designer Anna Kelsey also deserves a mention for her inventive use of the brooms which combine to form a Golem-like monster.

In its current state you can see the show returning in a post-vaccine future as seasonal offering by the end of the year. With more work on the story, the songs may yet get the script they deserve.


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