Review Round Up: John & Jen, Southwark Playhouse

We round up the reviews for Andrew Lippa and Tom Greenwald’s musical now playing at the Southwark Playhouse.

(c) Danny Kaan.

The Reviews Hub: **** ” the factor that ultimately makes John & Jen so special is the skill with which it tells a multi-layered human story in musical form. In so doing, it frequently brings tears to the eyes.”

London Theatre1: **** “Both Tucker and Cornay put in tour de force performances, avoiding melodrama, an impressive feat in a show with graveyard scenes and a boy who is never visited by Santa (nor, presumably, the tooth fairy). Both John and Jen go through the full range of human emotions, and the actors evidently enjoy the challenges of portraying a difficult but nonetheless plausible family life.”

London ** “All in all, it feels like a production that shows too much of its work: it’s obvious what it’s trying to do with its casting, its structure, director Guy Retallack’s alternatingly naturalistic and surreal staging, but none of it genuinely connects. Given that the time was taken to do a partial rewrite, it feels even more like a missed opportunity.”

Gay Times: **** “It’s an unusual but entertaining storyline with some genuinely excellent musical numbers, and the quality of Rachel Tucker’s and Lewis Cornay’s performances is worth the admission price alone. Do yourself a favour and check it out while you can.”

(c)Danny Kaan

Theatre Weekly: ***** “John & Jen is by no means a light-hearted musical romp; it explores some troubling themes with immense sensitivity, but it also captures the human spirit in a very humorous way. Andrew Lippa and Tom Greenwald’s musical resounds with regret and hope in equal measure, but it’s the spectacular pairing of Rachel Tucker and Lewis Cornay that seals the deal.”

Pocket Size Theatre: *** “Almost completely sung-through, Tucker’s powerful vocals are impressive as always and standing ovation worthy- especially her rendition of ‘The Road Ends Here’. Cornay captures his characters with incredible youthful essence and showcases his exceptional vocal versatility.”

Everything Theatre: **** “This is a challenging two-handed production with a flawless cast, expertly directed by Guy Retallack. The performances from Rachel Tucker and Lewis Cornay are absolutely phenomenal! Both have astonishing, versatile voices, and their casting (credited to Leon Kay Casting) is inspired, as their synchronicity seems totally instinctive and seamless.”

Reviewsgate: ***** “Both players get chances to seize centre stage and deliver a big number full on in each act. It is an evening that belongs to them both however. She develops from bossy sister to possessive mother with skill and he manages to be two different small boys and young men yet making clear that one is replicated in the other. It is a difficult thing to deliver.”

(c) Danny Kaan

Musical Theatre Review: **** “The result is a musical which elevates itself away from its inherent flaws to become an emotionally intense two hours. It provides a rare chance to see West End and Broadway leading lady Rachel Tucker in an intimate setting, but also showcases Lewis Cornay as a young lead who is every bit her equal.”

London Theatre Reviews: *** “Although not thoroughly engaging or extravagant, ‘John & Jen’ is still able to provide an enjoyable piece overall. Rachel Tucker is a marvel, and Lewis Cornay compliments this perfectly.”

The Stage: *** “Guy Retallack directs a modern update of the schmaltzy US musical at Southwark Playhouse, London, starring Rachel Tucker and Lewis Cornay.” **** “In contrast to many of the shows currently available to London’s theatregoers, John and Jen is a piece of musical art that dives deeply into the complexities of its characters. Though the depth and pace of its narrative leaves you desperate for more sections of extended dialogue to address the darker parts of the plot, there can be no faulting the dazzling score.”

John & Jen continues to play at the Southwark Playhouse until the 21st August.

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