Brooklyn was inspired by the hard-times, miracles and friendship experienced by its creators Mark Schoenfeld and Barri McPherson. This latest revival of the show is its European premiere, directed here by Adam Haigh.
This play-within-a-play musical uses the streets of Brooklyn, New York as the stage from which five bridge-sleeping “city weed” characters perform the story of a woman named Brooklyn (Hiba Elchikhe). Brooklyn comes to the city from Paris in search of her namesake: the father she never met. The search leads her to stardom, magic, and a musical feud with formidable diva ‘Paradice’ (played by Emily-Mae). The plotline doesn’t really make sense, but is performed with great flair nevertheless.
The (fairy)tale – and music – is thematically driven by the words Faith, Belief, Trust and Love, gathered together under the repeated line “When you change someone’s life, you change your own”. These are big concepts – big dreams dreamt up by the down and out of the “United Streets of America” – which adds a touch of pathos and irony to the story.
The cast deliver an energetic, cohesive performance, and the show gives ample opportunity to showcase their tremendous voices and vocal range. The harmonies, too, are strong, and the performance would have benefitted from more of these. In general, the more ‘unplugged’ or less amplified songs were scarce and yet much more powerful, for this audience member at least.
Greenwich Theatre is a fairly small – and lovely – venue. Perhaps if the sound and pace came down a little it would better illuminate what is essentially an idealistic, feel-good musical with a great set and a talented cast.