Sunday, 11 May 2014

Review | WATER BABIES (Leicester Curve) May 2014

Water Babies - the Victorian novel and 70's animated film about a boy who plunges into a river and meets aquatic children received it's world premiere at Leicester's Curve Theatre. With ambitious technology and an impressive West End cast, the highly anticipated musical has a lot to live up to.

Directed by Ed Curtis and Guy Jones, Water Babies follows the story of Tom, a young chimney-sweep, convicted of a crime he did not commit. He escapes into a river to find the Water Babies who must help him in his quest to be reunited with love Ellie. It's almost the story Peter Pan, but underwater...

The story is overseen by the magical presence of the Fairy-Godmother character Mrs D (Do-As-You-Would-Be-Done-By), played by Louise Dearman who is warm and welcoming as the mysterious female figurehead. No stranger to that sort of role, having previously played Glinda in Wicked, Dearman is perhaps a little underused here, but whenever she sings, we are reminded that she is indeed one of theatre's greatest talents.

Waterloo Road's Thomas Milner is a great young lead and as the 'Peter Pan' of the show, he has all the required traits. He's wide-eyed, cheeky and despite of only a short initial meet between him and love interest Ellie, Milner manages to create a sweet connection with Lauren Samuels who is perfectly cast and in fine voice throughout. There's a really impressive duet between Samuels and Dearman - Waiting For You.

The most exciting characters come in the form of Jock - a Lobster (Andy Gray), Claude - a Swordfish (Tom Davey) and Terrence - a Seahorse (Samuel Holmes). All three glide around the stage on customised bikes and a scooter, decorated to further suggest each type of creature, it's very clever and wonderfully imaginative. Holmes especially is fabulously flamboyant and earns most of the laughs from an audience of families. Tom Lister is perfectly cast as the Electric Eel, flipping between what must have been ten different accents and sings a great number - Friends In High Places with the impressive male dancers.

The excellent ensemble showcase their versatility throughout and particularly shine as the Water Babies themselves, each bringing their own characters forward, they're charming, endearing, clearly having fun and they're just as fun to watch.

Also fun viewing is the screen upstage which is multi-functional. Often used to depict underwater scenes when actual water isn't practical it's also used to make characters appear and disappear in a burst of bubbles. The hologram technology is the best I've seen on any stage. Used mainly for the appearance of Richard E. Grant as the Kracken, you'd easily be fooled into thinking he was actually there.

There's one recurring musical underscore that is very remindful of The Little Mermaid and it's apparent that the show utilises elements of other successful musicals, notably The Lion King's use of puppets and Wicked's style of costuming. It's a theatrical conglomeration, but it all works within the concept and set  against Morgan Large's beautiful scenery and stunning waterfall, the production is a visual delight.

It's great that someone believed in Water Babies, this is a story worth telling but one that I don't think many would have bothered with. It's difficult to combine an 1862 Victorian novel with the necessary 21st century technology and make it all harmonise, but it does work and the end result is definitely of joy in seeing a new musical, traditional in feel yet contemporary in production.

Water Babies is definitely something special. Yes, there can be improvements, but it's clear that an enormous effort has already gone into this, a show that is full of heart, wonderful imagination and deserves a chance. A lot of new musicals take risks and aren't rewarded with a future, it would be a terrible shame to see this sink. Support the incredible team behind Water Babies at Leicester Curve until Sat 17 May 2014. Click here for tickets.

Watch the trailer for Water Babies and listen to some of the music below:

Cast List: Louise Dearman, Tom Lister, Thomas Milner, Lauren Samuels, Andy Gray, Samuel Holmes, Tom Davey, Caroline Deverill, Jeffery Harmer, Matthew Gent, Robbie Boyle, Matthew Caputo, George VCarling, Jorell Coiffic-Kamall, Cristina Hoey, Rebecca Jayne-Davies, Sienna Kelly, Marianna Neofitou, Morgan Scott, Marcquelle Ward, with Michael Denvir & Richard E. Grant

1 comment:

  1. I have to say, I really enjoyed this show. I was lucky enough to catch it twice during it's run, the vocals were unreal, particularly from Lauren Samuels, who I've long been a fan of, and of course the fantastic Louise Dearman.