There was much anticipation for a new British musical to open at the Southwark Playhouse last year, but like so many others, the premiere of The Sorcerer’s Apprentice was put on hold as the country went in to lockdown and theatre’s closed. While disappointment replaced excitement, some hope emerged in the form of a filmed version of Richard Hough and Ben Morales Frost’s magical musical, available on Stream.Theatre.
We’ve probably accepted now that digital theatre is a tolerable alternative to the real thing in the present circumstances, and a digital premiere in place of in-person performances felt like a substitute we’d just have to grin and bear. That is, until you watch it. It doesn’t take long to realise this is a fully staged, full-length musical that’s utterly enchanting in every way.
You’re probably familiar with the story, perhaps from the famous Mickey Mouse interpretation or the (pretty awful) Nicholas Cage movie. Richard Hough’s book brings this The Sorcerer’s Apprentice in to the 21st century, with a gender flipped central character and a parabolic story that will feel relevant to all.
In a post-industrial town famed for it’s view of the northern lights, Fabian Lyddeker’s refinery is ruining the natural environment and destroying the aurora. It falls to magic man, Johan Gottel and his daughter, Eva, to convince the town that the building that provides jobs and creates wealth is having a far more damaging long-term effect on their lives and livelihoods.
With a decent running time, there’s more than enough scope to explore this story, with a few side plots thrown in. Eva is the central character, and we get to see a burgeoning relationship start to form between herself and Erik Sondersson (Yazdan Qafouri), while the exchanges with her father, to whom she is apprentice, remain strained.
But we also get to see the Lyddeker side of the story, with Marc Pickering giving a deliciously dastardly performance as the villain of the piece, whilst essentially still under his mother’s, and Nanny’s, thumb. And so, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice takes us on a two-hour family-friendly adventure with more than enough of a plot to keep us all thoroughly entertained.
It’s a truly standout performance from Mary Moore as Eva, with sumptuous vocals to fill your living room with joy. David Thaxton as Johan provides the right balance to Eva’s naivety and optimism, and director, Charlotte Westenra, has beautifully pulled out all those vital generational relationships.
Richard Hough and Ben Morales Frost have worked some kind of incredible alchemy with the music and lyrics; it feels like a traditional musical theatre score but at the same time fresh and exciting. Anna Kelsey’s set and costume design are bang on the money, and though it, we get a real sense of the lives the characters are living.
Unsurprisingly there’s a soupçon of stage sorcery on offer too, including a wonderful homage to the dancing brooms sequence, and while this would have been all the more impressive at an in-person performance, there was enough on screen to give us a sense of just how magical this production could be.
Illusions, puppetry, and a heart-warming story; there’s not much more you could ask for, and yet it is more that we get. The creative team have not accepted digital as second best, nor used digital as an excuse for a shorter, stripped back affair. The Sorcerer’s Apprentice reminds us just how magical musical theatre can be, and how its return cannot come quick enough.
The Sorcerer’s Apprentice streams on Stream.Theatre from 26th February to 14th March 2021