The Woman in White

A single flickering lantern situated centre stage is an appropriately Gothic opening to the first London revival of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Woman in White. This romantic, horror-tinged musical is based on the 1859 novel by master of mystery Wilkie Collins. It has all the staples of a Victorian classic: a mysterious wronged woman, heroines you cheer for, dastardly villains and plenty of enigmatic, seemingly-ghostly goings-on.

Lloyd Webber first adapted Collins’ text for the stage in the early noughties and The Woman in White opened to lackluster reviews in 2004. It lasted just nineteen months on the West End and merely three on Broadway. In musical theatre lore, The Woman in White doesn’t hold a (literal) candle to Lloyd Webber’s big hitter The Phantom of the Opera (with which it shares its Gothic ambiance and romantic score). This new West End production hopes to rewrite history thanks to a revised songbook, truncated script and stripped down staging. For the most part, this regenerated version is a success. The lyrics to songs such as I Hope You Like It Here -- when noble drawing master Walter first enters the homes of the charming sisters Marian and Laura -- and You Can Get Away with Anything, sung by villainous Count Fosco -- are amusing and witty. The plot whips along at a breakneck pace, but still allows big ballads All for Laura and I Believe My Heart to tug on your heartstrings. The musical is almost entirely sung-through, and you’ll find yourself leaving the theatre humming the refrain, even if you entered unfamiliar with the musical.The revival also proves timely: the plot of The Woman in White revolves around three courageous women and their mistreatment by two powerful men. When the ill-fated Laura (Anna O'Byrne) sings: “We are powerless at the hands of these men!” her words tear through the confines of the Victorian setting, right to the heart of present day politics. Laura, her sister Marian and the titular "Woman in White", Anne, risk everything to foil the plans of the wicked Sir Percival Glyde (Chris Peluso). It is unusual, and cheering, to see a musical that puts as as much, if not more, emphasis on female solidarity as it does romance.The three lead actresses shine in their roles: O’Byrne heartbreakingly portrays Laura’s journey from ingenue to tortured wife. Sophie Reeves imbues Anne’s desperation with empathy. As Marian, Carolyn Maitland oscillates between loyalty to her sister, loyalty to her feelings for Walter, grief and guilt -- her solo numbers are the play’s most memorable. Their performances are complemented by Greg Castiglioni’s comic, scene-stealing turn as Fosco and Peluso as the villainous Glyde. If the show never quite offers the scares or thrills of the original novel, its more to do with its obligatory quick pace than the performances on offer. The staging by Morgan Large, innovatively makes use of the small stage at the Charing Cross Theatre: the clever, moving panels adding depth and perception to the simple set.The result is an emotive, exciting addition to London’s theatre scene. Like any Gothic tale, it lends itself perfectly to a winter night. This revival will charm both Woman in White newbies and sceptics alike.

The result is an emotive, exciting addition to London’s theatre scene.

Reviews by Francesca Street

Charing Cross Theatre

The Woman in White

★★★★
Southwark Playhouse

Promises, Promises

★★★
Criterion Theatre

The Comedy About A Bank Robbery

★★★★★
Edinburgh Playhouse

Annie

★★★★
Festival Theatre Edinburgh

Nederland Dans Theater 2

★★★★
Festival Theatre Edinburgh

1984

★★★★

Performances

Location

The Blurb

Acclaimed rising star Thom Southerland will direct this brand new production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Tony and Olivier-Award nominated musical, The Woman in White in a strictly limited 12-week season.

A tempestuous tale of love, betrayal and greed, adapted from Wilkie Collins’ haunting Victorian thriller, this is the premiere of Andrew Lloyd Webber and David Zippel’s revised score.

Walter Hartright’s life is changed forever after a chance encounter with a mysterious woman, dressed in white, desperate to reveal her chilling secret. When he takes up his position as drawing master to the beautiful Laura Fairlie and her half sister, Marian, he sees in Laura’s face an eerie reflection of the forlorn creature he met previously. Walter and Laura’s feelings for each other are thwarted by her engagement to the sinister Sir Percival Glyde. What is the connection between, Laura, Sir Percival, and the woman in white? Can true love prevail?

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