Tag Archives: The Sorcerer’s Apprentice

The Sorcerer’s Apprentice


Online via stream.theatre

The Sorcerer’s Apprentice

Online via stream.theatre

Reviewed – 25th February 2021



“With enough spectacle, big chorus numbers and powerful performances, this show could be a contender”


The latest offering by the Southwark Playhouse is a musical adaptation of The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, based on Goethe’s famous poem. It’s a story probably better known to audiences as a cartoon version starring Mickey Mouse in Disney’s Fantasia, where the young Mickey attempts to emulate his sorcerer boss by casting a magic spell, and rapidly gets in over his head. Dancing broomsticks and magical mayhem on screen are accompanied by composer Paul Dukas’ memorable score. Goethe’s poem, on the other hand, focuses firmly on more troublesome themes, such as lying, and pretending to be something you are not, and how good intentions will not save you from the consequences of your own arrogance and ignorance. In the Southwark Playhouse version, with book and lyrics by Richard Hough, and music by Ben Morales Frost, an attempt is made to update the story by making the young apprentice a daughter desperate for her magician father’s approval. She isn’t arrogant, but with a typical teenager’s desire for independence, decides to flex her magical muscles before she’s quite ready. And to be fair, she has an overprotective father who tries to push her in directions she knows won’t work for her. The story is placed firmly in the north (with northern English accents) but rather bewilderingly, the location is referred to as Midgard. Before you get excited, I have to warn you there isn’t a Norse god in sight.

Perhaps the biggest problem with Hough and Frost’s version of The Sorcerer’s Apprentice is that it tries too hard to be all things to everyone. It’s an unlikely mash up of magic versus science, northern belt and braces versus southern decadence, and capitalist exploitation of the working class. Add to that an environmental theme of human exploitation of natural resources, personified in the Aurora or Northern Lights that is somehow channeling its power through the magician and his child. In short, you have a plot that goes something like Ibsen’s Enemy of the People meets Mary Poppins. Goethe, this is not, even if there is a lively chorus of dancing broomsticks.

Nevertheless, this is a musical that has audience appeal. The diverse cast is charming, with particularly strong performances from Mary Moore as Eva, the Magician’s daughter, and David Thaxton, as her father, Johan. There is a heartwarming connection between these two on stage which is lovely to see, and it helps cement the drama that evolves as the two battle the evil capitalist forces of Fabian Lyddeker (Marc Pickering) and his strongwilled mother Lamia (Dawn Hope). Thaxton in particular, brings a nice intensity to his role of a man trying to keep his daughter safe from the powers that threaten to overwhelm them both. The strengths of this musical lie in the music and lyrics, and director Charlotte Westenra stages the action in such a way that gives the singers and dancers plenty of space (in a limited space) to shine. The musicians, under the direction of Alan Williams, do a great job with the score, and don’t overpower the voices. There are plenty of comic moments for the minor characters, and Yazdan Qafouri as Eva’s lovestruck young scientist suitor, plays his part with a sweet vulnerability that is sure to win fans. The costume and set design (Anna Kelsey) miss what few opportunities there are to be spectacular, but this is a musical staged on a small stage—not ideal for a show that involves the majesty of celestial phenomena and the pyrotechnics of exploding refineries.

This version of the Sorcerer’s Apprentice really belongs on a West End stage. With enough spectacle, big chorus numbers and powerful performances, this show could be a contender. But the plot needs work. Bring back Goethe’s tough mindedness. It won’t hurt The Sorcerer’s Apprentice a bit, and it would be great to get away from the sentimentality of the Disney adaptation. Why not think Wicked meets—just about any musical with complex, morally conflicted leading characters? In a world hurtling towards climate catastrophe and battling toxic capitalism, this could be a winner.


Reviewed by Dominica Plummer

Photography by Geraint Lewis


The Sorcerer’s Apprentice

Online via stream.theatre


Recently reviewed by Dominica:
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The Sorcerer’s Apprentice

A new musical by Ben Frost and Richard Hough

(inspired by the poem by Goethe)

Directed by Ryan McBryde

Musical direction by Seann Alderking


New musical inspired by Goethe poem The Sorcerer’s Apprentice appears in two exclusive concerts, with a stellar cast including Olivier Award winner Tracie Bennett. 

The Sorcerer’s Apprentice is best known to modern audiences through the Disney film Fantasia. ​​Acclaimed musical theatre writing team Frost and Hough have gone back to the original poem by Goethe to put their own spin on the story for this new musical, which reimagines the apprentice as the rebellious daughter of a master magician. Their new ​​version explores this relationship between a father and daughter, and whether magic can help them repair it.
​Now audiences have an exclusive opportunity to see this concert presentation, with a cast of West End stars including the double Olivier Award winning and Tony Award nominated Tracie Bennett (End of the Rainbow, Mrs Henderson Presents) with narration from Jan Ravens, best known for her Dead Ringers impressions. The first concert is the opening event for the newly renovated Broadway Theatre in Letchworth, and the second is in the intimate surroundings of the Ambassadors Theatre in the West End. 
Ben Frost and Richard Hough have been writing together since 2010. For Christmas 2015, they wrote a comic adaptation of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol (Castle Theatre), and are currently developing a new musical version of Around The World In Eighty Days, plus an original project entitled Neon. They have written full-length adult musical Possession (about a gothic murder in the backwaters of suburbia) and solo show Sin (about the wife of a politician at the end of her tether). 
Director Ryan McBryde’s credits include The House of Mirrors and Hearts (Arcola), The Donkey Show (Proud London), 1984 (Stuttgart), which was nominated for the prestigious Theaterpreis Der Faust, Cinderella (Salisbury Playhouse), Saturday Night Fever (UK Tour), The Ruling Class (Frankfurt), Angus, Thongs And Even More Snogging (West Yorkshire Playhouse), The Who’s Tommy (European Tour) and the German premieres of Spring Awakening and The Full Monty. His production of Hamlet! The Musical at Northampton and Richmond won the WhatsOnStage Theatregoers’ Choice Award. He is associate director for Perfect Pitch Musicals and the English Theatre Frankfurt.




Tuesday 7 February 7pm – The Broadway, Eastcheap, Letchworth Garden City, SG6 3DD

Box office: 01462 681088



Wednesday 8 February 7.30pm – The Ambassadors Theatre, West Street, London, WC2H 9ND

Box Office: 020 7395 5405



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