The cult of the Brontë sisters shows no sign of fading, with this the third musical I’m aware of, plus numerous plays, documentaries and adaptations.
Where Wasted was more a story-led period piece, and I Am No Bird had a modern slant on thr tale, Glass Town is a song cycle, described in the publicity as a “rock requiem” in which Charlotte, Emily, Anne and Branwell perform their own concert, with spoken word interludes.
Miriam Pultro has written this new musical, and plays Charlotte (and keys). She is joined by Katrien Van Riel as Emily (and bass) Emma Claye as Anne, and Eddy Marshall as Branwell (and guitar). They are joined by three additional musicians: Matt DeMaria (drums), Anthime Miller (cello) and Laura Zawarski (violin).
The sense of love and competition between the sisters come out, with thoughts of “what we shall be like if all goes well”. Watching, knowing the fate of this family, all dying young, the sense of failed potential jostles alongside the continuing pride in what was achieved by my Yorkshire compatriots.
Presented as a staged concept album, the format reminded me of the feminist rock musical Sugar Coat from last year’s Vault Festival. A piece of gig theatre with tunes from the areas of confession and resilience.
The siblings are presented in Glass Town as distinct personalities snd archetypes – Charlotte is the pulsating frontwonan and face of the ‘band’, Emily an alt-rocker full of angst, Anne a soulful reflective, and Branwell channelling the blues.
The lyrics capture the complexity of creating work, the harsh climate the Brontes live in, and the world of imagination which captured the sisters as they wrote their novels and poetry. In a set decorated with paper pages to emphasise their writing, the melodies highlight the bleakness and tragedy of this most famous of families.
Whether each sister has their own solo, or they come together (Charlotte and Branwell have a strong and subtle duet at the halfway point as they are ), Glass Town has definite potential to become a fully-fledged piece of musical theatre. It is named for the 1827 fantasy world created in the Brontë juvenila by all four siblings.
Director Daniella Caggiano brings close-ups and overlays into her camerawork to present relationships together as needed (Anne/Emily, Charlotte/Branwell, Branwell/Emily). There is something of the storyteller here, but that needs a bit more context in my view to underline who these people are.
Image credit: Stephanie Bonner
LouReviews received complimentary access to review Glass Town.