Who doesn't love a new musical? That feeling of excitement and nervousness as you discover whether you have something new to love is one of my favourite things in theatre. The Sorcerer's Apprentice was due to premiere at Southwark Playhouse last month until lockdown was announced. In true 2020's fashion, the show must go on and now it is debuting online for all of us to enjoy.
Based on the famous poem, The Sorcerer's Apprentice has previously been adapted into a segment in Disney's Fantasia and a full Hollywood movie. It is now the inspiration for a musical written by Richard Hough - elements from the original remain, but as the musical runs for over two hours, the story has been expanded in new and creative ways.
The story is set against the backdrop of the Northern Lights where a small town is at risk at destruction. In a gender-swapped twist, a father and daughter must work together and heal their fractured relationship while dealing with all the twists and turns their magic provides.
The cast are clearly having the time of their lives in these roles. Led by David Thaxton as Johan and Mary Moore as his daughter Eva, the pair exhibit real chemistry and believability in their troubled relationship. Marc Pickering gives a standout turn as the effervescent Fabian while Dawn Hope plays his long suffering mother. The joy the cast feel at being back on a stage after such a long drought is clear for all to see and bounces off of the screen. This is the real magic on show.
There are some clever visual effects regarding lighting but you get the sense these would be a lot more effective if you were sat in the theatre. While it was clear the cast were playing to the invisible audience where they should have been sat at the empty Southwark Playhouse, more thought could have gone to the audience watching at home as a couple of simple tweaks could have made some elements more powerful. The brooms coming to life is an iconic moment in The Sorcerer's Apprentice and for its 'Rise of the Brooms' act one closer, this production uses creative methods to perform a sequence worthy of its legacy in what is undoubtedly the highlight of the show.
The choreography by Steven Harris is always on point and makes the production feel a lot grander, like it was destined to be performed on a larger stage, while the costume design by Anna Kelsey is another highlight. Puppetry in theatre is always a tough one to get right - for every War Horse, there is always an I Can't Sing. Thankfully, this falls more into the former with brilliant uses of it.
The songs are pleasant in their own right though fairly unmemorable with the feeling that none of the cast get to truly express their talents to their full potential with the numbers though some do have some catchy earworms. Highlights include 'Brand New Me' and 'Damn You'.
Ultimately, The Sorcerer's Apprentice is a lovely piece of theatre. While nothing earth-shattering, it is a decent addition to the world of musical theatre. Great staging, lighting and effects coupled with a fantastic cast give this show a lot of potential. It does feel slightly unfinished at times - had this been able to perform to live audiences, you get the sense a couple of issues would have been ironed out in previews. Still, I have to admire the creative team for their resilience in getting this production out into the world, even when theatres remain closed.
If you're looking for a couple of hours of fun for all the family, The Sorcerer's Apprentice is perfect for kids and big kids alike. In terms of bringing theatre to life on the screen, this is pure magic.
The Sorcerer's Apprentice is available to stream until Sunday 14th March. Tickets available from https://www.stream.theatre/season/25