Tag Archives: Jim Steinman

Whistle Down the Wind

Whistle Down The Wind


Watermill Theatre

Whistle Down the Wind

Whistle Down The Wind

The Watermill Theatre

Reviewed – 27th July 2022



“Using multi-talented actor musicians, it is in reality a delight to watch throughout”


The premise of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Whistle Down the Wind” is interesting, and quite fun; if not a little implausible. A group of children stumble upon an escaped killer in a barn and through their unwavering belief that he is the Second Coming, they decide to keep his whereabouts a secret from the authorities. Despite being inescapably aware of the townsfolk’s collective hysteria about a murderer being on the loose.

The musical’s book (by Lloyd Webber himself, with Patricia Knop and Gale Edwards) has taken the action Stateside from its humble, English birthplace. The original novel, by Mary Hayley Bell, was set in Sussex while the 1961 film had moved up to Lancashire. We now find ourselves in the heart of the Louisiana Bible Belt. It is the 1950s and religious zeal is as high as the crop in the cornfields. Spearheaded by the adolescent Swallow (Lydia White), the young ones seem to question their elders’ unflinching faith yet refuse to bend from their own fledgling faith. Contradiction seems to be an underlying motif to this story.

The central theme pits the childhood innocence against adult cynicism; young, wide-eyed faith in ‘good’ against the older, blind faith in ‘evil’. Swallow symbolises the former, yet in Tom Jackson Greave’s staging she is too mature to give real credibility to her naive and innocent belief in ‘The Man’ who has unwittingly become Jesus Christ incarnate. White sweeps this worry aside, though, with an energetic and enthralling performance that sees her in customary fine voice.

Musically the show is disjointed, which isn’t necessarily a problem in itself, but in this case it’s hard to understand the shifts in styles. However, there is no denying the quality of music. Each number would pass the Old Grey Whistle test. Lloyd Webber’s theatricality is in full view, framed with influences of gospel, nineties pop, sixties rock, and with reprises and leitmotifs aplenty. And, of course, the mark of the late, great Jim Steinman is stamped indelibly across much of the libretto. “Tire Tracks and Broken Hearts” and “Nature of the Beast” have hot-footed over straight from a Meatloaf gig.

Incongruous to the infectious score is Jackson Greaves’ choreography, much of which feels out of place with the lyrical narrative. The ghost of Swallow’s mother, dancing like a spectral Kate Bush at every conceivable moment is eventually jarring. The intent is clear but unnecessarily overplayed. Similarly overstated is the bible bashing nature of the community. Conversely, the inherent Southern racism of the era is not fully given voice; its mouthpiece confined predominantly to the red neck sheriff – albeit convincingly and masterfully portrayed by the charismatic Toby Webster.

I must confess at this point that I do feel churlish picking at the faults, which are mainly down to the book. For this production is really quite brilliant. Using multi-talented actor musicians, it is in reality a delight to watch throughout. So, hats off to a wonderful cast. ‘The Man’ mistaken for the second coming is indeed a shining star guiding us through the show. Robert Tripolino’s presence and soaring voice fills the auditorium, while his performance remains alluringly intimate. With a twitchy sensitivity that offsets his opportunistic and manipulative pragmatism Tripolino embodies the unpredictability of a man with nothing left to lose. Complemented (rather than supported – this is very much an ensemble piece) by such a strong cast we are steered away from the fault-lines. Lewis Cornay and Chrissie Bhima as the doomed, ‘born-to-run’ teens, Amos and Candy, are an electric duo, while Lloyd Gorman’s fierce yet foibled father figure is a masterful presence.

The musicianship is astounding, led by onstage musical director, Elliot Mackenzie (the manic snake preacher and minister) the ensemble is a dynamic band, shifting from whispering intimacy to orchestral storms while seamlessly swapping instruments with extraordinary sleight of hand. Andrew Exeter’s rich and evocative lighting add to the magic. “Whistle Down the Wind” may have had its fair share of detractors in the past, and it does have its weaknesses, but this revival on the whole highlights its strengths.



Reviewed by Jonathan Evans

Photography by Pamela Raith



Whistle Down The Wind

The Watermill Theatre until 10th September


Previously reviewed at this venue:
Brief Encounter | ★★★ | October 2021
Spike | ★★★★ | January 2022


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Bat Out of Hell

London Coliseum

Reviewed Media Night – 21st June 2017




“the strong musical performances saved this damned production”


I will confess, I am new to the works of Jim Steinman and haven’t watched many West End musicals, mainly because when I was younger I felt musicals were lazy in storytelling. Since then I have been blown away by some fantastic musicals, but Bat Out of Hell brought back all those previous prejudices I held. This was a thoroughly disappointing production in a storytelling perspective. The story – very cliché; another young white boy (Strat) falls in love with another white girl (Raven) and both feel as though they can’t live without the other.

Set in an apocalyptic world in the year 2100 where diversity no longer exists (i.e if you were anything but white or mixed race sorry to say you didn’t make it in this apocalypse). The rich live in high towers and the anarchist youth have the Peter Pan syndrome as they are mysteriously genetically frozen to be 18 forever – because being 18 forever means you will never mature. Bat Out of Hell at times felt like Romeo and Juliet particularly in the scenes when Strat gazes up at Raven hidden upon her tower or Twilight when their love is in jeopardy for she will grow old and he will be young forever.

The dialogue was jarring, which of course didn’t give the actors much to work with, leaving the casts’ acting much to be desired, particularly the scenes with Strat and his crew, – leaving me often cringed at this caricatural acting. Many sins were committed on that stage (and I’m not even talking about the awkward projected sexy scene with Strat and Raven).

The set design aspect of this production really did it for me. Jon Bausor’s design transported the audience into the world of this production. I found myself discovering new aspects of the staging throughout the piece. One thing I also really liked was the concept of the projection of scenes as they were happening on stage. Although, this did lack structure and at times it really felt out of place and in those moments I struggled to understand the reason as to why the director had decided to have certain scenes project and others not. It did create some distancing from the acting, but I am always one for having a bit of Brechtian alienation (if there is a point to it).

Whilst the book and acting left much to be desired; the strong musical performances saved this damned production. Andrew Polec as the lead Strat delivered one of the best performances, filled with energy and passion. Vocally Polec really brought the house down and engaged us in his world.

Christina Bennington, on the other hand, as the spoilt and irritating Raven may have somewhat delivered musically but her overall performance was unforgiveable. Awkward to watch, lacked stage presence and honestly, as a storyline point I could not see why Strat was falling in love with this girl. Perhaps, it was solely her ‘purity’ he was wanting after all.

For me, I would have much rather have Danielle Steers (who played Zahara) in the role of Raven. Danielle’s characterisation of Zaraha, her presence and enchanting performance of Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad and Dead Ringer for Love left me wanting to see more of this actress. Also, not only would Danielle have brought more talent and a fantastic performance for Raven, she too would have brought a different dimension to this character and storyline; an interracial couple, a relationship we often don’t see depicted on stage.

Rob Fowler and Sharon Sexton as Falco and Sloane were rightly a dynamic duo. Even as disillusioned lovers, they still had a chemistry that was envying to watch. Particularly in their smash performance of Paradise by the Dashboard Light, their vocal range and performance were just incredible.

Sharon Sexton delivered a hilarious show stealing performance and was in my eyes one of the strongest actresses in this piece.

Whilst maybe cliché the audience on the opening night revelled in this production as they loudly cheered and gave standing ovations to the actors, which I don’t blame them for; the phenomenal house band and performances are what made this show entertaining. I just wish somebody else had written the book because most elements were there.

I guess Heaven Can Wait because I don’t see this production ascending to the top.


Reviewed by Daniel Correia

Production Photography by Specular



Bat out of Hell

is at the London Coliseum until 22nd August