Posts Tagged ‘Sue Monk Kidd’

Duncan Sheik has chosen some diverse subjects for his musicals. Teenage repression and angst in late 19th Century Germany, to a rock score, in Spring Awakening. A serial killer who also happens to be an investment banker in American Psycho. Now civil rights in South Carolina in the early 1960’s.

Lily lives with her widowed father who beats her. The family’s black housekeeper Rosaleen, also treated badly, has become her mother figure. They’ve had enough of the abuse and go on the run. They are befriended by the Boatwright family, three sisters called August June & May, who keep bees and make honey. Though only initially for a week, their stay is extended, Lily takes to bee-keeping and assists their permanent keeper Zak, and Rosaleen helps around the house.

It’s not long before racism arrives on their doorstep when Zak is arrested and beaten in trumped up charges involving Lily, despite her denial that anything out of order took place. Meanwhile June, who has been romantically pursued by school teacher Neil for many years accepts his proposal. It turns out the Boatwright sisters knew Lily’s mum, but its not entirely clear how or when. Her dad eventually finds her but taking her back isn’t going to be easy.

Though I haven’t read Sue Monk Kidd’s novel or seen the film made of it, I felt Lynn Nottage’s book was a bit rushed, leaving too much unclear or untold. I’ve loved the four plays of hers I’ve seen, but this is a book / libretto for a musical, requiring different skills. Perhaps its because there are a lot of songs to get through, which dominate the show, though its hard to complain about that as they are so good, choruses soaring and solos shining. You’d been hard pressed to find vocals as consistently good as this on any stage. The score starts in rock mode before taking on big ballads and rousing gospel.

It’s a lovely story, juxtaposing the serene gentleness of the Boatwrights and their friends with the anger and racism in the wider community. Beautifully staged and performed, it continues the Almeida’s roll – Patriots, Tammy Faye, Streetcar – with Rebecca Frecknall’s Romeo & Juliet on the horizon exciting me already. So don’t be surprised if this joins them in the West End, but see it now in the more intimate surroundings of the Almeida.

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