Review: BKLYN The Musical (stream.theatre)

Filmed at the Ugly Duck in Bermondsey, this revival of Mark Schoenfeld and Barri McPherson’s one-act musical comes to stream.theatre. It proves to be a tour de force in digital theatre.

The story of Brooklyn, who loses her mother at an early age and seeks out her father in America, is presented as a play within a play as a group of street singers in the tough streets of Brooklyn, New York, decide to tell this particular story.

With a cast of five, and three musicians, this is a thoughtful chamber piece which makes the most of both indoor and outdoor space.

Emma Kingston in BKLYN The Musical

Characters within the play come to life with vibrant costumes and bright visuals when needed; otherwise the setting remains within a brown and beige colour palette. It’s deeply effective and emotionally engaging.

The characters of Brooklyn, her mother Faith and father Taylor, the Street Singer, and Paradice, stand for general tropes within the musical tradition (the bright-eyed youngster, the tragic woman, the lost soul, the magician, the temptress), and the songs are soulful, bluesy, and on the edge of pop.

The show within a show is something of a fairytale, with the happy ending you might expect: but there is a twist it would be churlish of me to reveal.

This ending is far more hard-hitting and in keeping with the surroundings in which the homeless singers find themselves, wrapped up against the elements and although friendly, maintaining a cautious distance.

Newtion Matthews in BKLYN The Musical

The songs themselves are largely of the powerhouse type, with big voices and notes required: Marisha Wallace’s Paradice, in particular, rises to the challenge and knocks her numbers out of the park, while making her character reveal just a touch of vulnerability and the hint of a backstory of pain.

Emma Kingston’s Brooklyn, looking to team up with the dream parent she knows nothing about, may not fully suggest the Parisian chanteuse who has risen to the top overseas, but it is a fine performance with enough variety to keep you rooting for her.

I haven’t experienced this musical on the stage, so am unclear how the transitions between what is real and what is imagined/staged were achieved in the theatre; but here costume and set changes bring different aspects of the plot to life.

Newtion Matthews’s Street Singer, in particular, gains stature and sass with just a flicker of light and a splash of a primary shade. He’s a fairy godfather, a wizard, and a figure of tragedy all in one.

This is a powerful film, perhaps the best so far from the Lambert Jackson team. It is assured, confident, and dynamic, while staying true to its source material. I thoroughly enjoyed its innovation, cleverness, and attention to detail.

The cast of BKLYN The Musical

Inspired by the real, mean, streets of Brooklyn and those who survive on it, a story is woven which can be interpreted as you wish. The Battle of the Divas may stretch credulity a little bit, but it gives the ladies in the show a chance to shine, and sets the scene for a moral dilemma later on.

I found BKLYN a powerful piece of work, with characters which are teased out as we watch with whom we can gain an emotional connection. The book is fairly strong, and the score has a number of highlights, including “Magic Man”, “Love Was a Song”, and “Raven”.

The cast of five – as well as Kingston (who was one of the Secret Society of Leading Ladies), Matthews, and Wallace, there is sterling work from Sejal Keshwala (Faith) and Jamie Muscato (Taylor) – are well-chosen, and have a cosy chemistry which works well in the framing scenes, and gives a warmth to the scenes where their voices blend together.

Dean Johnson (who helmed theĀ First Date revival) directs the piece, with musical direction from Leo Munby. Munby is joined by Richie Garrison on saxophone and Georgina Lloyd-Owen on cello. Video editing is by Sam Diaz with production design by Andrew Exeter.

BKLYN is streaming until 4 April – book your tickets at https://www.stream.theatre/season/51.

Image credit: Sam Diaz and Dean Johnson

LouReviews received complimentary access to review BKLYN The Musical.

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