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McWhir's Musical Medium hits most of the right notes

Review by David Munro

ROBERT McWhir’s productions of musicals at The Landor are always worth a visit and The Musical Medium is no exception.

It is a delightful little four character musical, unpretentious but appealing.

Peggy Trivet, a music teacher, the medium of the title, is in touch with the pantheon of the great Composers and musicians of the past by virtue of her powers, in particular, Franz Schubert, who seems to have taken up residence in her home.

Through him, she is able to assist one of her pupils, George, to achieve his desire of studying at the Julliard in New York and advance her own career by publishing the music the dead composers had dictated to her.

A whimsy but under Robert McWhir’s capable direction never mawkish.

The musical is the work of one Stuart Wood who has written the book, music and lyrics.

His music is fresh and he has written one good ballad for George’s mother, Despina, which is a potential show stopper.

However, I felt that his lyrics and dialogue, although amusing and adequate, could have had more of an edge.

His lyrics, in particular, tended at times to be a bit fustian and too consciously clever but nonetheless they showed that Mr Wood has a good feel for what is required in a musical and cannot in any sense be described as amateurish.

The cast, however, could not be faulted.

As Peggy Trivet, Carol Ball proved what an accomplished comedienne she is. Reminding me at times of Dora Bryan in her heyday, she extracted every ounce of humour from the part and made Peggy a character to remember.

She also knows how to point a lyric and made some of Mr Wood’s sound better than I suspect they really were.

Leo Andrew’s Franz Schubert was more than just a deus ex machina but a character in his own right. Whether Schubert was quite such a good singer must be a matter for musicologists to argue about but it was alright by me.

I know little about the requirements of Julliard but Paul Spicer’s George would, I feel sure, have measured up to them.

He has a pleasant singing voice and a pleasing personality and although the part was hardly Hamlet he showed he had a way with 'the acting'.

Colleen Daley has a lovely voice and she knows how to make the most of her songs. As Despina, the mother, she had the more dramatic ballads and she made them very moving; I only wished she could have had more of them. Over to you Mr Wood!

In a sense that epitomises my feeling about The Musical Medium.

As it is, it is charming but there is a potential there for something more.

Whether it has a future I know not but I feel that expanded and with more revision it should be worthy of bigger and better things.

I certainly hope so. In the meantime, however, it can still be enjoyed for what it is and so it should be.

The Musical Medium Book, Lyrics and Music by Stuart Wood.
Directed by Robert McWhir.
Design – Ellen Van de Graaf.
Sound - Gurney Person.
Musical Director – Stuart Wood.
CAST: Carol Ball; Leo Andrew; Colleen Daley; Paul Spicer.
Landor Theatre, 70 Landor Road, Clapham, SW9 9PH
7.30pm - Tuesday to Saturday
May 31 – June 18, 2005
Box Office: 020 7737 7276

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