1960s working class Liverpool: the setting of Oliver’s Lionel Bart’s lesser known work, Maggie May. With a book written by Alun Owen, writer of The Beatle’s A Hard Day’s Night, which garnered him an Academy Award nomination, the pairing seems like a recipe for greatness – however it’s the material that lets this otherwise incredible production down.
The creative team have done an excellent job with what they have been presented with. Verity Johnson’s set and costume design must be commended, particularly with the intimate space she is working with. However, it’s the musicality behind Henry Brennan’s musical direction and piano work, and Sam Spencer-Lane’s choreography that need the biggest praise. For a show that is predominantly sung through, Brennan magnifies the talented cast. Complimenting this is Spencer-Lane’s choreography, which is impressively slick and innovative – so much so that you feel you could get high kicked from the front row!
Kara Lily Hayworth and James Darch, as the leads, have undeniable chemistry – as well as talent in their own right. Nonetheless, even Hayworth’s flair cannot save what is a two dimensional female character. With Hayworth being Maggie May, herself, you would think that the she would be written as more than just a stock character. Instead, Maggie is stripped down to a projection of a prostitute who falls in love with her childhood sweetheart.
It is great that the London theatre scene is encouraging the production of more working class stories. The songs are all well sung and the cast are impeccable performers: but unfortunately, they can not save outdated material and a score that whilst enjoyable, does not have any stand out songs. If you can suspend your opinions on Maggie May’s depiction of gender, you’ll enjoy this production that is brimming with talent.