In the world of theater, expectations often run high when beloved literary classics are adapted for the stage. However, the recent English-language debut of “Rebecca: The Musical” at an off-West End venue has left both critics and audiences with a sour taste, as a cascade of criticism rains down upon the production.
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Based on Daphne du Maurier’s enduring novel, the musical promised to bring the Gothic romance to life with a substantial production cost, boasting a 19-strong cast and an 18-piece orchestra. Yet, despite these resources, the creative team behind the musical appears to have missed the mark, prompting a litany of complaints.
One of the major points of contention is the underfunding of the production. Critics question the decision to entrust such a large-scale property, once destined for Broadway, to a modest 265-seat off-West End theater. The result, they argue, is an astonishing dearth of investment and invention.
Production designer Nicky Shaw’s choice to take a literal approach to set design came under fire. In a theater with limited wing space, the opportunity to engage the audience’s imagination with abstract visuals was missed, and instead, scenes were clumsily established using single pieces of furniture and poorly lit flats. This led to an unfortunate lack of atmosphere throughout the performance.
The musical’s score, comprising 39 songs, was anticipated to be a highlight. However, it received mixed reviews, with some songs likened to Andrew Lloyd Webber-esque romance tunes, complete with repetitive melodies. The sound design, which ranged from loud to excessively loud, did little to enhance the musical experience.
The English translation, surprisingly handled by Christopher Hampton, known for his adept writing in plays like “Les Liaisons Dangereuses,” was criticized for producing meandering and incoherent lyrics. The lead character’s song, “Mrs. deWinter Is Me!” was singled out for its lack of lyrical finesse.
Characterization and acting also faced scrutiny, particularly among the underdeveloped servants in the household and the portrayal of Mrs. Danvers as a caricatured villain. Some reviewers found the lead character’s vocal confidence commendable but lamented the lack of a director capable of showcasing her talents effectively.
In conclusion, “Rebecca: The Musical” appears to have fallen short of the high expectations set by the novel and its previous adaptations. Critics suggest that revisiting the original novel or Alfred Hitchcock’s 1940 movie adaptation might be a more satisfying experience than witnessing this particular re-invention of the classic tale. The musical’s English-language debut has left audiences and critics alike with a sense of disappointment, as what was meant to be a remarkable production has turned into a remarkable debacle.