This new musical by Freya Catrin Smith and Jack Williams is filled with potential and energy – even if Annie Londonderry’s story gets a little bit lost in the middle.
What do you think of when you hear the name Annie Londonderry? Well if you are like me who didn’t know a single thing about this extraordinary woman who became the first woman to cycle around the world – then you need to get to the Charing Cross Theatre to see this energetic and well constructed new musical.
The concept surrounding how Annie’s story is told is her attempting to pitch her story as a way to make her a newspaper columnist, drawing on secretary Martha to help her recount her adventures. It is a simple enough concept but it allows her story to really shine through in this two handed musical that is filled with sharp humour, moments of poignancy and moments of reflection as it explores how she reinvented herself from Annie Kopchovsky to Annie Londonderry to do more than what was expected of a woman in that time.
At just an hour and a half long, the show covers a lot of ground in an impressive way – but it is a shame that the story itself (and focus on Annie’s background) begins to flag in the middle and by structuring the narrative the way it has been is interesting but leaves us wanting to know more about her life.
This being said there is plenty to be enjoyed about this musical. In particular – the quality of Freya Catrin Smith and Jack Williams’s book and music and lyrics which has a delightful spark and charm about them that really make an impact. In particular, the numbers ‘The Wager’ and ‘Everybody Loves a Lie’ are delightfully playful, while ‘Sholf Mayn Kind’ and ‘Stranger’ have tender poignancy about them that is really touching to listen to. The script itself is sharply witty and it would have been nice to have heard the characters interact with each other a touch more out of song.
Director Sarah Meadows ensures that the energy levels are kept up consistently – I particularly loved the scene in which Annie encourages Martha with her ability to portray the different characters she encountered on her journey (most of all the French customs official bringing some deliciously sharp lines). But this being said, Meadows never forgets to highlight the deeper nature of the character Annie and her story and what we as audiences can take away from it in the 21st century.
At the centre of this production, the cast are really sensational. In particular, Liv Andrusier has great bite and sharpness to her comic timing that captures the tougher nature of Annie’s character but yet equally capable of showing her vulnerability – particularly when she reflects on her children and having to raise her siblings from a young age. It is a performance you can barely take your eyes off. Meanwhile, equally as talented is Yuki Sutton as Martha is brilliant throughout. Her ability to switch characters is so naturally done that makes for the perfect match for the sheer force of nature that is Andrusier’s performance.
As a new musical, this has strong potential and from the story point of view could be expanded further – simply to be able to draw an even fuller picture of Annie’s story. But it is still a witty and entertaining watch that gives hope for more musicals that feature stories of those who are obscure but deserve more recognition.
By Emma Clarendon
Ride continues to play at the Charing Cross Theatre until the 17th September.