MUSICAL REVIEW: Preludes ★★★

Southwark Playhouse, London
Friday 6th September - Saturday 12th October 2019

Taking place 3 years after the event which drove himself into a spiral if depression, Preludes is unique in the fact that it's set in Moscow 1900, but then flutters back within Rachmaninoff's (Keith Ramsay) mind, where he has been hypnotised by Dahl (Rebecca Caine). Though the production has a lot of structure, and certainly impresses technically, battling through a hitch or two, the pacing is the fundamental flaw in three-time Tony nominee Dave Malloy's musical fantasia.

With a stunning backdrop of LED strip lighting, and an old grand piano as it's centrepiece, it's undoubtedly clear have talented the team are; Tom Noyes takes the lead on piano as a more grown up Rachmaninoff, whilst Ramsay portrays Each, a man more fighting with the demons after a disastrous negative reception towards his Symphony No. 1 in 1897. Ramsay is transfixing as Rach, who brings a rage of energy to the stage, but is the equally the only character that is allowed to go to this mental state; it all feels a bit unsteady on stage, with other characters rapidly falling back into the distance, especially the male roles. Georgia Louise, best known for Mamma Mia, and portraying cousin Natalya in Preludes, is dramatically underused; her rendition of 'Natalya at the climax of Act One is heart wrenching, and sadly the only time in which she stands out, as she sings over Rach's body.

Alex Sutton has done well with the little content in which he has been given; he makes great use of the layering in stage, and the racked seating leading into the audience, making us feel an equal playing field to the characters, but sadly stumbles shortly past this. Christopher Nairne's lighting design on the other hand pulses across the stage thanks to an ingenious use of strip and side lighting to achieve a sense of trapping Rach in his own mind, and is used particularly well in 'Loop', at the top of Act Two, and again in 'Hypnosis', which comes later in the same act.

Overall, Preludes for those who have an intrigue within the composer's work will relish at the life he lead as their hear the music flood the floor, but sadly the pieces of book & lyrics will soon get lost post walking out of the auditorium, with forgettable scores.


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