Paper Hearts the Musical

It’s always exciting to witness the world premiere of new writing, especially when it’s a British born production. Writer and producer of Paper Hearts the Musical, Liam O’Rafferty certainly has a lot to be proud of here. This exciting new folk-pop musical brings two worlds together as our male protagonist Atticus, a shop assistant in a high street book shop, merges his own life and that of the novel he is determinedly writing. 

what at first seems crammed in, very quickly starts to feel more intimate and visceral

At first glance the cast seem a little cramped on to the small stage as they burst into spectacular singing in their opening number. With most of the cast doubling as their onstage band, the small venue rattles with the intensity of them all joining in song and music, so that what at first seems crammed in, very quickly starts to feel more intimate and visceral. 

The story switches between the two worlds seamlessly, moving from the real-life account of Atticus’ life as a struggling writer working in a struggling book shop, who decides to enter himself for a “young writer of the year award” and that of Yanna and Isaak, the Russian characters in his book. As Atticus struggles with self doubt and the overwhelming need to please his hyper-critical publisher father, we also meet Lilly – a potential love interest with more than a few complications in tow. Art imitates life as Atticus uses all these experiences to help him form the path of his characters. 

Simple set and props are used really effectively and director Tania Azevedo uses the small space to its absolute best. The cast are at their best when performing together as a band and as an ensemble. Some of the more modern songs feel a little disjointed from the tone and feel of the others, but this may be because some of the more Russian-folk inspired songs are so beautifully well done. Gabriella Margulies is fantastic as Lilly, acting the part with a natural grace that makes her story affect the audience strongly. Matthew Atkins is also outstanding as both book shop owner Norman and Russian journalist Isaak, creating two very separate and equally well-acted characters. 

As new musicals go this is definitely one to try and catch while it’s here. It’s touching, full of heart and soul, brimming with talent and a pleasure to watch.

Reviews by Hannah Lucy Baker

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The Blurb

World premiere of uplifting new British musical set in a high street bookshop. Aspiring writer Atticus Smith lives avidly through his novel's characters until the arrival of the spirited Lilly Sprocket. With a contemporary pop-folk score performed by a company of actor-musicians, Paper Hearts is about passion and finding you place in the world, among books! ‘A musical set in a bookshop is such an original idea. Watch out West End!’ (Simon May, Composer, EastEnders theme) Directed by Daily Mail Award-winner Tania Azevedo

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