Valley of Song at the Finborough
Ivor Novello’s unfinished work has lain incomplete and unperformed since his death, until now. With the lyrics completed by his long-term collaborator Christopher Hassall, the Finborough Theatre’s production of Valley of Song is the professional world premiere of the musical.
Due to be Novello’s next Drury Lane musical before his death, the most undeniable fact is that this is a production that deserves a larger scale. Although a lovely space, the Finborough does not do it justice. There are such theatrical indelicacies that a lavish musical can tap dance away with and distract their audiences with sequins and flair that in a smaller production can be stilted or overly saccharine.
The cast work incredibly hard to bring the theatricality of this musical to life, apparently unfazed by the sometimes over-ambitious choreography within the space. The leading lovers, Linford Hydes and Katy Treharne, present a very quaint, young, slightly embarrassed pair whose voices cling so beautifully together in their duets. Both appear very suited to the sweetness of the genre. Sandy Walsh, on the other hand, presents a very welcome, and somewhat necessary, change with her refreshingly independent and pragmatic guardianship. The character (and Walsh’s performance), alongside Lee van Geleen’s crafted one-liners, provide a wonderful edge of comedy.
The only downside was the set, dwarfing the space further by the inclusion of a tweed valley, which doubles as an Italian flag. If productions of Othello can take us from Venice to Cyprus without the need for garish reminders, perhaps a production including a song about going to Venice, a song about being in Venice and every other line mentioning the location (still Venice) could do without. All this abstract and slightly tatty backdrop serves to do is clash with the style and period of every other element of the production.
Some areas of dialogue did seem either under-rehearsed or generally patchy, but that’s nothing some extra polishing can’t fix. However, these moments were few and far between and will hopefully be ironed out with time. The vocals were fantastic, the choir and ensemble pieces being particularly smooth, although there are only so many times it is acceptable for an organised group of people to stumble onto a private musical conversation and join in before it is considered bad manners.
This production cannot be faulted by much, it just begs to be bigger, brighter and shinier. It is all there – the story of ambition, romance present and correct, complete with obligatory cringeworthy cute moments – all set to catchy and theatrical musical numbers. If Novello had not passed before its completion, Valley of Song would be among the ranks of classic British musical theatre productions already. Perhaps its time has finally arrived.
Valley of Song is at the Finborough Theatre until Saturday 25th January 2014, for further information or to book visit here.