Sunday, 12 January 2014

Theatre review: Valley of Song

With Lost Boy transferring to a larger theatre mid-run, the Finborough's policy of having a secondary show in repertory pays off again, as Valley of Song gets promoted to a longer run. Having previously staged Ivor Novello's final completed work, the theatre now moves on to one he died midway through composing, and which despite having been finished by other writers (Christopher Hassall writing the lyrics, Phil Park the book, and Ronald Hanmer completing the music) hasn't been professionally staged before. David (Linford Hydes) is the choirmaster in the small Welsh town/venereal disease of Cromidris, and is in love with his star soprano Lily (Katy Treharne.) But she doesn't return his affection, and when her wealthy employer Nan (Sandy Walsh) decides to retire to Venice, taking all of her staff with her, Lily gets her chance not only to try for an international singing career, but also to meet new men.

Something of a love letter to the country of Novello's birth, Valley of Song is inoffensively genial but not very interesting. The central love story is hard to care too much about, and if it weren't for the fact that Lily's new love interest Ricardo (Richard Mark) is an obvious con artist, there'd be little reason for the audience to root her to end up with David instead. It probably doesn't help that the songs attributed to David are pretty dull, the score livening up a lot when the action moves to Venice for the second act, the women's big number "Where Do We Go From There" being a particular highlight.

The cast, at least, are strong, and Treharne in particular has a voice that justifies her casting as the potential superstar soprano. Another part of the Finborough's "THEGREATWAR100" season, this time the First World War is more of a third-act plot device than a major component. This makes for an altogether jollier affair than the dark musical it's replaced, but although Benji Sperring's production gives it a good stab, it still very much feels like a dated, minor work.

Valley of Song by Ivor Novello, Christopher Hassall, Phil Park and Ronald Hanmer is booking until the 25th of January at the Finborough Theatre.

Running time: 2 hours 20 minutes including interval.

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