Review: The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (Southwark Playhouse)

It is always an occasion to welcome a new musical to the stage,. Although I planned to be in the theatre on press night for this one, we all know what happened next.

So, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice has gone digital: filmed at Southwark Playhouse, co-produced by the King’s Head Theatre, and available on stream.theatre.

It is unashamedly old-fashioned, with a traditional character and plot arc. Full of fabulous songs from lyricist Richard Hough and composer Ben Morales Frost, with a fantastic cast of six principals and four ensemble.

Mary Moore and David Thaxton in The Sorcerer's Apprentice
Mary Moore and David Thaxton in The Sorcerer’s Apprentice

Based on Goethe’s long poem (which also inspired the Walt Disney cartoon short), this production gender-swaps the leading role. She is now a girl, Eva (played by new face Mary Moore in her professional debut). Her mother died in childbirth: her father is remote and struggles to engage with her.

Although we do get the famous sequence of brooms taking over at the close of Act One; the main plot is around the battle between the Northern Lights and the town’s energy-sapping refinery. The capitalist Lydekkers live for money and their industry is the clear villain of the piece.

Family battles, opportunities for redemption, and potential romance all feature in this show, ably directed by Charlotte Westenra. The choreography (by Steven Harris) is dynamic, the characterisations fully drawn, and the score is scintillating.

Dawn Hope and Marc Pickering in The Sorcerer's Apprentice
Dawn Hope and Marc Pickering in The Sorcerer’s Apprentice

The excellent and detailed set and lighting design (Anna Kelsey and Clancy Flynn, respectively) give this a big-budget gloss. The performances of Moore, David Thaxton (as her magician father), Dawn Hope (as Mrs Lydekker), and Marc Pickering (as Fabian Lydekker, a turn which surely nods to that of Tim Curry in villain mode) are particularly fine.

In plot, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice has magic in its sights: but also has hints of The Secret Garden (father missing wife, can’t connect with his child); and An Enemy of the People (respected man in town ignored when he highlights danger).

There are moments of deep pathos alongside an amusing vignette of an overbearing mother. The spirit of the Aurora is made visible through puppetry (by Maia Kirkman-Richards). The ensemble easily appear far more extensive than a quartet (through the use of movement and special effects).

The six principal cast of The Sorcerer's Apprentice - Dawn Hope, David Thaxton, Mary Moore, Marc Pickering, Yazdan Qafouri, and Nicola Blackman
The six principal cast of The Sorcerer’s Apprentice – Dawn Hope, David Thaxton, Mary Moore, Marc Pickering, Yazdan Qafouri, and Nicola Blackman

The Sorcerer’s Apprentice will give you monents and joy, but then pull you up with its emotional power. As a streamed piece filmed during a pandemic, there is nothing noticably awkward in its distancing, and it comes across as well as it would at close quarters.

This is a show which would happily transfer to a larger house in the West End, and definitely deserves a shot to do so. I highly recommend this superlative and smashing new addition to the musical scene in London.

You can book your ticket for The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, which runs from 26 February until 14 March, at https://www.stream.theatre/season/25. You can find out more information about the musical here.

Image credit: Geraint Lewis

LouReviews received complimentary access to review The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.

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