The musical has officially opened in the West End and has also recently released this cast recording. But what do we think of it?
As someone who loved the book and the film (and have yet to see the tv series which I have just found out about), on the news that Audrey Niffenegger’s beautiful love story was to be transformed into a musical I was immediately intrigued to see how this story would translate musically as well as theatrically. While I have yet to experience seeing the show for myself at the time of writing, I have to say I’m impressed with what I have heard on this cast recording, released before the show had even opened for previews in the West End.
The story follows that of Henry and Clare, who fall in love and get married but their story is made complicated by the fact that due to a rare genetic condition Henry can travel through time – but not necessarily when he wants and he is never sure how long he is going to be away for. It is a heartbreaking but charming story that is beautiful in the way in which it unfolds.
Featuring original music and lyrics by singer Joss Stone and songwriter Dave Stewart (who also wrote music and lyrics for Ghost the Musical), this is perhaps one of the most understated scores that I have heard for a musical for a long time. This isn’t a negative as such and it is clear from the very start that both Stone and Stewart know exactly how to get to the heart of the story through song made up of emotional and thoughtful lyrics, while the music softly draws you in. Listening to this album from start to finish, there feels a slight similarity to the music and lyrics for Ghost the musical, a haunting quality to it that captivates from start to finish, wrapping the story around the listener effortlessly.
Real highlights of the album come from songs such as the wonderfully wistful ‘One Day’ which is a duet which concerns the future and yet it never becomes clichéd lyrically and feels suitably poignant as to what is unfolding plot wise. Elsewhere, there is a wonderful sense of poignancy and storytelling through numbers such as ‘This Time’ , ‘I See Her’ (a really lovely duet that highlights the pain of grief beautifully and the troubles of Henry’s condition) and ‘Love Wins the Day’.
Yet, it does have to be said that perhaps not every track works. I felt that songs ‘A Woman’s Intuition’ comes across as a little out of place and while ‘Masterpiece’ has some lovely qualities about it feels as though it becomes slightly repetitive. However, both these songs may come across differently when seen performed live on stage.
But this does not distract from the wonderful performances given by the cast, led by David Hunter and Joanna Woodward as Henry and Clare (reprising their roles from the musical’s run in Chester last year). Both not only have a wonderful depth and range to their vocals that really makes the listener feel the emotion they are conveying, but their performances always feel natural. Hunter’s performance of ‘Journeyman’ is captivating to listen to, with just a hint of rawness to it as he conveys just how much pain his condition is causing – it feels authentic from start to finish. Woodward’s vocals are particularly heartbreaking on ‘This Time’ filled with conflicting emotion that captures the character’s loneliness and isolation beautifully – there is such a clarity to her performance that even just listening to the vocals and not seeing the performance you get a real sense of where the character is in this story. There is also great support surrounding them in the form of Tim Mahendran and Hiba Elchikhe as the friends of the couple and Ross Dawes as Henry’s father offering a memorable performance on ‘I See Her’.
Overall, some might find the subtle nature of the music and lyrics not quite to their taste and there is the occasional flaw – but then this works (in my opinion) perfectly well for the story and the characters right at the centre of it. Just like the book itself, this is an enchanting and thoughtful album that really gets to the heart of the story (which is no easy feat when time travelling is involved) without going overboard emotionally.
By Emma Clarendon