Rebecca

“....this is a beautiful score, sung exquisitely.

Tonight I’ll dream of Manderley….

Rebecca the Musical is based on the 1938 Gothic novel written by Daphne du Maurier. The musical was written by Michael Kunze and Sylvester Levay, and was first performed in Austria in 2006.  This version, is the English language premiere, and has been adapted from the original German language production by Sir Christopher Hampton and Michael Kunze. 

The novel depicts an unnamed (“I”) young woman who impetuously marries a wealthy widower, Maxim De Winter, before discovering that both he and his household, led by manipulative housekeeper Mrs Danvers, are haunted by the memory of his late first wife, Rebecca – or at least as far as Maxim is concerned, he appears to be haunted by her.  Mrs Danvers resents the new Mrs De Winter’s intrusion, and views her as an unworthy replacement for her beloved former mistress. 

Rebecca, we discover, drowned in a boating accident. When the newlyweds return to Manderley, the De Winter family home, the new Mrs De Winter struggles to fit in, and starts to worry that Maxim is not in love with her, and that she is a poor replacement for her predecessor. Slowly, the truth emerges….that the first Mrs De Winter was cruel to her husband, and that the circumstances surrounding her death were not accidental.

Can I firstly say that I did enjoy last night’s performance.  I read the novel many years ago, and have seen a few different film and TV adaptations, but had not heard any of the music, so came to this musical version knowing very little. What I discovered last night, is that this is a beautiful score, sung exquisitely, especially by Lauren Jones as the new wife, Richard Carson as Maxim, and Kara Lane as Mrs Danvers. All three had powerful vocals, and were very believable. I was totally engaged by all three. 

Lauren Jones was brilliant.  Her character’s journey from mousy young companion to the mistress of Manderley showed her abilities as an actor as well as a vocalist. She displayed star quality, as did Kara Lane, whose Mrs Danvers who displayed a growing threat to the newlyweds. Richard Carson was excellent as Maxim as we watched his unravelling. 

The ensemble and supporting players also gave good solid performances. I particularly liked Sarah Harlington as Beatrice, Maxim’s sister. 

The sound from 18 strong orchestra, led by musical director Robert Scott, also added to an impressive ‘wall of sound’.

For me, the production didn’t fully work. It felt like a missed opportunity. The set and design of the production, in the confines of this fairly small theatre, didn’t seem to do the score and the performers justice. I would have loved to have seen this on a larger stage, with the orchestra in the pit in front…with lovely costumes, and furnishings, to set the scene firstly in Monte Carlo, and latterly in the grand country home of Manderley. 

This show was reviewed on the 18th September 2023.  Rebecca runs at The Charing Cross Theatre until the 18th November 2023.  Tickets available here: Charing Cross Theatre

Review written by Ruth Hawkins

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Photo credit: Mark Senior

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