The Tempest - A Musical Enchantment

I entered this show tentatively. I LOVE Shakespeare. If it goes wrong, I get upset. The thought of The Tempest being set to music, frankly terrified me. The set looked promising, a ragged white sheet stretched across a dark backdrop with two heights of rostrum. Pretty, with different levels... I approve. And then the cast blasted onto the stage with a beautiful, high-energy opening and I instantly relaxed. The cast are in period costume and can actually ACT, ladies and gentleman. It's so easy for Shakespeare's beautiful wordplay to become lost and confusing and I'm elated to say that this is not the case here. Every word is clear and well enunciated and, though a little rushed at times, the narrative is easy enough to follow due to some simply wonderful performances. Jes Almeida (Ariel), Josh Wagner (Prospero), Paige Meehan (Miranda) and Adam Schofield-Bodt (Ferdinand) are divine to watch as the protagonists, though sometimes Meehan's performance is a little one-dimensional against the others.Stealing the show, without a shadow of a doubt is the simply exquisite trio of Sean Zackrison (Caliban), Matthew Bagley (Stephano) and Andrew Hendrick (Trinculo). Their characterisation and comic timing is beyond compare. I quite fell in love with Bagley's camply drunken Stephano and was blown away by Hendrick's genuinely funny clowning about. But for me, this show belonged to Zackrison, whose Caliban had such presence and sincerity as to keep all eyes on him regardless of anyone else on the stage. His performance is stunning and one of the best I have seen at any Shakespeare play.The low point for me was the addition of song. The cast can sing and sing well. Hendrick in particular is jaw-dropping. They made easy work of the numbers which were very good in themselves, non-intrusive in their placement throughout the show and made fantastic use of the classic iambic pentameter that Shakespeare is renowned for. However, they were just ever so slightly out of place. 'My Miranda' was scarily reminiscent of the tragedy that was Bob Carlton's, 'Return To The Forbidden Planet' while 'Blessing' was a beautifully sung harmony that sadly turned into an irritating, up-tempo dance number. I was confused by the inclusion of the 'Sprites' that followed Ariel about. They can dance beautifully but often were just distracting (inexplicably wrapping yourself in a pink sheet is symbolic of what?) and most definitely need to learn that ridiculous arm-waving does not equal etherealness. All in all, I enjoyed this performance and left having had a wonderful experience. The cast is strong and talented and there were some poignant moments that left me actually open-mouthed. It would be wrong to classify this as a 'musical' as it is much more subtle than that. With a little fine tuning and a little less arm-waving, this could verge on being art.

The Blurb

Shakespeare's elegant romantic comedy combines lyrical musical and dance numbers, Commedia-style comedy, mystery, and romance to create an unforgettable feast for the eyes and ears. All ages. Don't miss. 'Magical!' (News Times).