Tag Archives: Jamie Muscato


BKLYN The Musical


Online via stream.theatre


BKLYN The Musical

Online via stream.theatre

Reviewed – 20th March 2021



“an extraordinary amalgam of film and theatre, brought vividly to life by an extraordinary array of talent”


On paper, “BKLYN The Musical” appears to be an ambitious musical to stage. The narrative scale is quite epic, moving from sixties Paris to downtown Brooklyn, crossing not just the Atlantic but a couple of decades too, with an imagined stopover in Vietnam. Backstories mingle with imagined futures, dreams and alternative realities. A recent staging at Greenwich Theatre in 2019 revealed some of these shortcomings in an otherwise well received production; described variously as brave and bold.

Fast forward eighteen months and imagine the courage and faith a company must need to tackle this musical in the midst of a pandemic. Lambert Productions have done just that and their own particular take, part theatre part film, is quite simply stunning. Simplicity is the key. Filmed at the Ugly Duck space near London Bridge, it uses the sparse, semi-derelict atmosphere of the venue to wondrous effect. The artistic decisions, seemingly small, have a massive impact. Stripped back we can absorb the narrative and get right to the heart of the characters.

“BKLYN” is a play within a play. It opens with street singer (Newtion Matthews) drawing a like-minded band of itinerant troubadours together to tell the story of Brooklyn; born of a mother living in Paris and an American father who disappears from their lives. Orphaned at a young age, Brooklyn later uses her inborn talents as a singer to try to find fame, fortune and her father in America. All she has is an unfinished lullaby; a wordless leitmotif her father wrote that her mother passed onto her. Finding the refrain will hopefully lead her to her fairy-tale ending.

As the story unfolds, the players slip into the characters being portrayed. The parallel lives are depicted by deft costume changes, camera angles and lighting effects. Dean Johnson’s cinematography and Sam Diaz’s editing are flawless, matched by Andrew Exeter’s design and Matt Davies’ lighting. Although you are aware of the multi-take filming process, director Dean Johnson’s masterstroke is that you constantly forget. The piece feels very real, very live and, as a result, it is a very emotional experience.

But save the best for last. The cast. Again – small in scale but epic in projection and talent. But first the score. A blistering catalogue of soaring power ballads interspersed with up-tempo R&B soul that sweeps you off your feet. Lyrically they occasionally flirt with Disney sentimentality, but the cast collectively grab these floating nuances and crush them into the ground. Follow your dreams is the overriding message of hope, but you have to dig deep and dig up the dirt. It’s a “Sidewalk Fairy-tale” intones the street singer, steering the show well clear of schmaltz.

Newtion Matthew narrates, as the street singer who morphs into the ‘Magic Man’, a kind of fairy-godfather. With the voice of the ‘Soul Man’ he guides us, lifts us and eventually breaks our hearts when he delivers the final twist in the tale. Emma Kingston as the eponymous Brooklyn shatters all preconceptions of the fairy-tale princess with her spirit of steel and voice of crystal. Jamie Muscato, even if a little fresh faced and youthful, convincingly portrays the drug addled Vietnam veteran. His letters never reach Brooklyn’s mother, the tragic and ill-fated Faith, touchingly played by Sejal Keshwala. The vocal demands are huge, but the voices are pushed to their limits, but never beyond. In particular Marisha Wallace whose vocal performance truly stands out. She is ‘Paradice’, the villain of the piece who demands that we love to hate her. But we just end up loving her instead.

We are watching a show in a disused warehouse, but at times we could be in Madison Square Gardens, at others in a Brooklyn back alley. The panoramic sense of location is matched by the sweeping lyricism of the songs. With us barely noticing, a verse can chuck out a diatribe on homelessness, immigration, racism and the empty façade of the American Dream. These messages are quite subliminal and never encroach – the overall effect is purely emotive.

The overriding message though is one that you’ll want to pass onto as many people as possible, which is that this is an extraordinary amalgam of film and theatre, brought vividly to life by an extraordinary array of talent.



Reviewed by Jonathan Evans

Photography courtesy Sam Diaz and Dean Johnson


BKLYN The Musical

Online via stream.theatre until 4th April


Jonathan’s reviews this year:
Sherlock Holmes: The Case of the Hung Parliament | ★★★★ | Online | February 2021
The Picture of Dorian Gray | ★★★★ | Online | March 2021


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Heathers the Musical – 4 Stars


Heathers the Musical

Theatre Royal Haymarket

Reviewed – 10th September 2018


“if we are condemned to forever relive our past, it may as well be done like this, with a great big song and dance”


As if fearful of the present, a strain of nostalgia seems to have taken hold of pop culture. Cinemas teem with sequels, reboots, and franchise entries; discount CDs beg to be taken back to some half-remembered decade. In this context it feels grimly predictable that Heathers – correctly in this case called a cult classic – should be dredged up once again in musical form. And yet somehow, perhaps due to the utter peculiarity of the original, one wonders whether it might just work.

1989: smart and sweet-natured Veronica Sawyer subsists in the purgatory of high school. Then, in a freakishly convenient turn of events, she finds herself under the wing of the decidedly bad-natured Heathers. The Heathers – surnames Chandler, McNamara, and Duke – are simultaneously the most popular and most loathed girls at Westerburg High; led by “mythic bitch” Heather C., they seem to float above school life, making and breaking reputations at a glance. But there is also Jason Dean, known only by his initials, an outsider operating beyond understood hierarchies. The Heathers may be at the top of the social food chain, but they are a part of it nonetheless. J.D. is purely anarchist, his sardonic smile a promise of disturbance. Veronica is slowly drawn in, and so begins the dark unravelling of the Heathers’ reign of terror.

Within the first few moments, the nerves of those who feared a demolition job are calmed; led by Carrie Hope Fletcher’s Veronica, the cast immediately sets out a strong stall. The ice-cold cruelty of the Heathers (Jodie Steele, Sophie Isaacs, T’Shan Williams) and the cool, calm, and collected J.D. (Jamie Muscato) naturally please the punters, but particularly revelatory are Christopher Chung and Dominic Andersen as bullies Kurt and Ram. Their unforeseen injection of comic relief almost steals the show completely.

The set design is as impressive as it is versatile. Grand and glorious one minute (enhanced by the grand and glorious theatre itself), football fields transform seamlessly into classrooms, bedrooms, and basements.

In spite of a few altered plot points, there’s probably very little that will upset die-hard fans. On the other hand, the music is surprising for its quality. Not that a failure was necessarily expected, but the weight of anticipation may have crushed lesser songs.

If it seems reductive that I compare the show so closely to the film, I would say only that, as a certified nostalgia piece, the play sets itself the challenge of living up to its forebear. And on the whole, I would say that it does so, but not without reservation. There is, of course, the issue of J.D.’s introduction. In the original he is set upon by Kurt and Ram, only to pull a (blank-loaded) gun on them in the middle of lunch. In this version, J.D. instead beats the living daylights out of the pair as Veronica looks on in awe. Given the stark terror of school shootings in modern-day America, it’s easy to see why the change was made, and it needn’t necessarily make much difference, except that it creates plot holes in an otherwise tight script. For example, later on J.D. loses his apparent ability to take on the jocks and receives a savage beating. What’s more, when not on school property (or when in the school basement), no such qualms about his (sometimes lethal) weapon-wielding crop up. It’s a minor point, but it is demonstrative of the wider problem of reboots trying to navigate new eras.

Some of the caustic cool that made the film so much fun has sadly been stripped out. Muscato deftly handles the transition from rebel to terrorist, but his J.D. lapses too often into a plastic Patrick Bateman impression. Ultimately these factors don’t detract much, but may leave you with nagging doubts later that night.

It would be hard to describe the show as cutting edge. If pop culture really is trapped in an endless cycle of regurgitated images, Heathers: The Musical won’t be the antidote. But if we are condemned to forever relive our past, it may as well be done like this, with a great big song and dance.


Reviewed by Harry True

Photography by Pamela Raith


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Heathers the Musical

Theatre Royal Haymarket until 24th November



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