REVIEW: Girlfriends, London Musical Theatre Orchestra, Bishopsgate Institute

There is no doubting the strength of Howard Goodall’s beautiful score, with the cast of the London Musical Theatre Orchestra’s latest concert delivering highly emotional performances. 

NR 18-11-02 118
(c)Nick Rutter. 


The London Musical Theatre Orchestra’s latest concert performance brings to life the glorious score of Howard Goodall’s Girlfriends, complete with an all-star cast who capture the courage and strength of the women in the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force in World War II with great passion.

But the main issue with Girlfriends is that there doesn’t seem to be a strong enough narrative at the centre, concentrating on the relationships that Amy, Lou and Sally have with two pilots Guy and Gareth, while at the same time offering snapshots of their lives as part of the WAAF. The plot feels slightly disjointed and unsure of what direction it wants to take – but there is no denying that it covers all of the emotions from fear and grief to love and hope. Much of it is sung through, not really allowing the audience to get a true sense of what the characters are like and how they interact with each other without a song to help them through.

However, despite this this is still a beautifully performed show that captures the dangers and suffering that those involved with the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force went through – while at the same time giving a real sense of the strength of the bond between all of the characters. This is particularly highlighted during numbers such as  ‘The Darkness is Now Their Friend’ and ‘Uniform’, offering beautiful harmonies that convey the sense of pride, determination, underlined with fear and grief.

Under Bronagh Lagan’s direction and the London Musical Theatre Orchestra’s performance, Howard Goodall’s highly perceptive lyrics really stand out and make the audience sit up and pay attention as heard through Vikki Stone’s beautiful rendition of ‘Wake Me O Wake Me’ – a moment that offers a quiet reflection on the pain of grief caused by the uncertainty in war.

As always, the London Musical Theatre Orchestra has once again brought together a strong cast to bring the show to life. Lauren Samuels is wonderful as Amy, capturing her uncertainty and worry about getting too close to Guy given the fact he might not survive the war with great sensitivity. Her duet with Rob Houchen as Guy ‘Save My Life a Second Time’ is a real highlight. Elsewhere, Lucie Jones shows great depth and understanding for her character Lou, Natasha Barnes is great support as Sally – warm and funny and Vikki Stone offers a strong performance as Jas. But all of the cast offer up hugely emotional and powerful performances that keep the audience thoroughly engaged – it is clear just how much working on this has meant to them, judging by the level of emotion on their faces by the end.

In terms of the musical itself, there is plenty of emotion and strong characters that makes for an engaging watch  but there needs to be a stronger narrative at its centre to make it completely satisfying. But this concert performance  shows the strength of the LMTO’s ability to revitalise rarely heard or seen musicals with a wonderful cast. A sensitive and beautiful performance.

By Emma Clarendon 

For more information about the London Musical Theatre Orchestra’s upcoming performances visit:

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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