Tag Archives: Carolyn Maitland




Park Theatre



Park Theatre

Reviewed – 14th January 2020



“Maitland’s vocal control in particular is quite staggering, bringing a coiled strength to the small auditorium.”


Often described as the sequel to ‘Fiddler On the Roof’, ‘Rags’, originally written by Joseph Stein (who did also write ‘Fiddler’) enjoyed only four days on Broadway in its 1987 debut. Regardless, it was nominated for five Tony awards that year. But, more baffling still, it has never been brought back to the stage, that is, until now.

Revised by David Thompson and directed by Bronagh Lagan, ‘Rags’ tells the story of Jewish immigrants making their way to America at the turn of the twentieth century. Among the boatloads of hopefuls is Rebecca (Carolyn Maitland), with her son David (as played by Jude Muir for this performance), who, without any family or a nickel to her name, is determined to succeed in this new promised land.

As with most sequels, ‘Rags’ has loosely the same narrative arc as its predecessor: A community of traditional Jews fights off the outside world on multiple fronts, be it via assimilation, persecution or modernisation. Certain familiar characters re-appear as well. Ben (Oisin Nolan-Power) for example, a nice but nerdy tailor seeks the affections of Bella (Martha Kirby) whose father, Avram (Dave Willetts) disapproves of the union. I mean, why not just call them Motel and Tzeitel and have done with it.

But ‘Rags’ does depart from ‘Fiddler’ in its sheer volume of historical content, including everything from the 1909 Shirtwaist strikes and the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire to the emergence of feminism, the rising popularity of Yiddish theatre and song writing, and culture clashes, not only between different ethnicities and religions, but also first and second-wave immigrants. In order to include all of this, every character symbolises a school of thought, be it capitalism or communism, traditionalism or modernisation. And this leaves little room for any of the characters to have any, well, character. The older generation – aunt, uncle and father – bring a little Yiddish flavour from the old country, but aside from that everyone is a bit bland.

The soundtrack (Charles Strouse/Stephen Schwartz) flits between a klezmer-ragtime fusion, and modern musical numbers. The former is accompanied by a swaggering Klezmer band wondering the stage, playing various bit-parts as they go. The small ensemble brings a tonne of humour and spirit to the production. Clarinettist Natasha Karp is a particular joy to watch, her constant facial expressions a kind of running commentary on the story’s goings-on.

The more modern numbers, however, are generally forgettable and feel mismatched with the themes of the plot.

The set (Gregor Donnelly), consisting of a wall of suitcases, and sparse furniture, provides an atmosphere of transition; of both hope and hardship. Whilst Rebecca, Bella and David have just arrived, the small apartment has been the home of multiple immigrant families before this one, and will no doubt go on to house many more after, and the set succeeds in keeping this feeling of flux throughout.

The cast themselves are gloriously talented, doing their best to inject colour and excitement to a story that drags on at least a half hour too long. Maitland’s vocal control in particular is quite staggering, bringing a coiled strength to the small auditorium.

But whilst ‘Rags’ was not intended as a direct sequel for ‘Fiddler’, it’s hard not to consider it as such and, as is often the case with sequels, it doesn’t stand up to comparison. Yes, there are a couple of catchy numbers, a couple of funny scenes, and a couple of moments of heartfelt reflection. But not enough on any count, and unfortunately this revival is less a story of rags to riches, and more rags to run-of-the-mill.


Reviewed by Miriam Sallon

Photography by Pamela Raith



Park Theatre until 8th February


Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
The Time Of Our Lies | ★★★★ | August 2019
The Weatherman | ★★★ | August 2019
Black Chiffon | ★★★★ | September 2019
Mother Of Him | ★★★★★ | September 2019
Fast | ★★★★ | October 2019
Stray Dogs | | November 2019
Sydney & The Old Girl | ★★★★ | November 2019
Martha, Josie And The Chinese Elvis | ★★★★★ | December 2019
The Snow Queen | ★★★★ | December 2019
Shackleton And His Stowaway | ★★★ | January 2020


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Review of The Woman in White – 4 Stars


The Woman in White

Charing Cross Theatre

Reviewed – 4th December 2017


“the cast float around each other with well choreographed ease”


I spent my teenage years with my nose in a classic book, or two, or three, (or four), but I have to admit I never really enjoyed the writing of Wilkie Collins. In latter years I’ve enjoyed adaptations for stage and screen far more than the novels. They brought to life some of his complex characters and amazing plots. Maybe it was the lawyer in him that made his attention to detail so precise, and my teenage attention span that struggled with his prose.


Written in the mid nineteenth century, the book felt like a detective novel, yet that was a genre that barely existed at the time. Having not seen the original production, I was a little wary of how a classic mystery, complete with Victorian ghosts, could be adapted as a musical, even with a score from the capable hands of Andrew Lloyd Webber.

Explaining this plot involves untangling deliberate deception, sinister marriages, and questionable morals. It encompasses several journeys, an asylum, a marriage, and an impossible love affair, not to mention mistaken identities, two huge ‘secrets’ and a potential murder/kidnap to juggle! The cast have the unenviable task of ensuring the audience follows the twists and turns of five intertwined, unfurling lives, through David Zippel’s lyrics.

Charing Cross theatre is not a large venue, but Morgan Large’s adaptable set effortlessly glides to separate centre stage to direct your attention left or right, as well as framing action at the back to effectively shield dramatic entrances. The effect is very atmospheric and spacious, I frequently felt I was part of the journey around the stage throughout the story.

The score has been revised for this new production and is performed to perfection by the live orchestra conducted by Simon Holt. The acoustics of this old Music Hall aid the wonderful voices of the cast who float around each other with well choreographed ease. As an ensemble their voices harmonise beautifully, and the lyrics afford some humour to the tale.

The story has many protagonists pivotal to the plot, each presence on stage needs to command attention – and does. There is more than one leading lady and more than one villain at work. And the hero of the piece may just be a heroine. Carolyn Maitland, Anna O’Byrne and Sophie Reeves (Mariam, Laura and Anne) have equally stunning voices. Each sings with the other at some point throughout the show to great effect. Different songs leave you feeling each has out-sung the other until the next number and the dynamic shifts.

Ashley Stillburn, Chris Peluso and Greg Castiglioni work wonderfully as Walter, Glyde and Count Fosco – the latter turning in an amazing comic cameo in the middle of the second act to much applause.

The show has lightened the tone from the original novel without losing the mystery – and with a twist at the end that remains a surprise. The Woman in White with its accomplished cast and tremendous score should be one of everyone’s Christmas shows to see.



Reviewed by Joanna Hinson

Photography by Darren Bell




The Woman in White

is at the Charing Cross Theatre until 10th February



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