MTAS have been posting a lot about the UK premier of this new musical. Ever since we went to their press event we’ve been excited to see this show and it’s safe to say it really doesn’t disappoint. If anything it’s almost unfair to other shows just how much talent there is on the incredibly small stage of the ARTS Theatre in Leicester Square. Admins Luke, Willy & Lewis went down to the first preview night and despite a few rough edges were blown away by the production. Bearing in mind it was the first time the whole cast and crew had run the production so more of a dress rehearsal than preview. The below is what we made of what we saw but we will be going again to see it in all it’s glory once it’s ‘officially’ opened.
In short Murder Ballad is a love triangle between Sara, Tom and Michael. Life has not dealt any of them the cards they wanted, and Sara is stuck in the middle, torn between her downtown past and her uptown future. Is the one that got away really worth risking everything for? In the very first song you’re told “It’s a murder ballad so logically someone has to die” so you’re in anticipation of finding out who and why throughout the 90-minute non-stop production.
The cast is a powerhouse and all four of them are perfectly suited for their roles. Kerry Ellis is powerful as Sara who you genuinely feel for throughout the performance as she is torn between her past and her present. Ramin Karimloo‘s army of swooning fans will be happy to hear that he spends a large majority of the show without a top on and he doesn’t have to try hard to be a tempting offer for Sara. Norman Bowman is a great Michael who you feel for as he realises whats going on around him and his transition throughout the show is compelling. It is Victoria Hamilton-Barritt who steals the show however as the narrator. Her character is always watching and is often used in scenes without actually being there. She provides moments of comedy and compelling drama with equal skill. Natalie McQueen and Matthew Harvey are the alternates for all four other parts but when they’re not on as leads are scurrying around the stage frantically tidying up after the rest of the cast. What a shame that we’ll have to see the show again to catch them in the lead roles too!
Sam Yates has done a fantastic job of directing this show. It is powerful and really uses the space to great dramatic effect. There is a simple revolve in the middle of the stage and around this it is mostly empty with occasional projection used to amplify the action taking place. The lighting and full tech wasn’t finished for this performance so can’t comment fully but the parts that were looked good!
The music is modern and edgy under the direction of Sean Green. It’s a sparce score of only 4 musicians which leaves space for the voices to come through and tell the story. The moments where there is harmony are tight and the voices blend perfectly to create a beautiful sound most clearly seen in ‘Built For Longing‘. Again it is Victoria’s voice which we found the most captivating and her ‘Clubs and Diamonds’ is a highlight of the show.
Murder Ballad is unlike many other shows as it’s just about telling a story, the ‘cautionary tale’ as they call it. The focus is entirely on the characters and how they feel. For us the nearest comparison would be RENT but even then it has a different feel as a show. Despite not being fully teched for this performance we were very impressed and cant wait to see the show again later in the run. MTAS are going to organise a group trip too so keep an eye on the facebook and twitter pages for information about this. The official tagline for the show is ‘This year’s hottest new musical‘ and that it just might be!
Easily one of the MUST SEE shows in London at the moment.
Even though in previews it’s easily a 5* show for us!
Murder Ballad has an age recommendation of 16+ as it contains content which some people may find offensive including; strong language, scenes of a sexual nature (including sexual simulation) and sexual references throughout. The performance is 90 minutes without interval.
Murder Ballad will play a strictly limited run at The Arts Theatre from 30 September 2016 until 3 December 2016. For tickets and info please visit
http://www.murderballadmusical.co.uk / @MurderBalladLDN