Reviewer: Helen Tope

Book, Music and Lyrics: Shenelle Salcido and Spencer Williams

Inspired by true events, For Tonight is an original musical from Shenelle Salcido and Spencer Williams.

A British musical that draws on Welsh choral music, folk and Romani-inspired melodies, For Tonight tells the story of the inhabitants of Trelawnyd, a village in North Wales. It is 1832, and the townspeople live in uneasy proximity with a local Romani camp. Tensions rise to the surface after one of the Romani caravans is set on fire.

The Parry family invite the Romani people to stay on their land. While their eldest son, Thomas, keeps his distance, Haydon (their second son) befriends Mirela, one of the Romani children. Their friendship leads Haydon to become fascinated with the Romani’s music, and Mirela’s mother teaches him a song, the softly lyrical Away.

The musical then jumps ahead to when Haydon and his siblings are fully grown and tending to their parents’ farm. The Romani camp has moved on, and with their parents dead, Thomas – stern, overbearing – runs the farm. Haydon yearns for something different, and decides to travel to Liverpool.

There, by chance, he meets Mirela again. The two of them lead very different lives, and they realise that their developing relationship must be carried out in secret. Mirela (played by Amy Di Bartolomeo) dreams of a new life in America and wants Haydon (Simon Gordon) to join her. But as their future becomes clearer, Haydon is asked to return home. His sister, Henrietta, has become seriously ill. The question for Haydon is whether he returns to Wales for good, or seeks adventure with Mirela.

In writing a new musical, especially one without source material familiar to the audience, the difficulty is in making that connection. With this concept album, creators Salcido and Williams are really clear on what they want to say, and how that message should be articulated. For Tonight brings together tradition and modernity, with a soundtrack packed with close harmony vocals and an indie sensibility that threads through every song. While Haydon and Mirela find themselves caught between duty and desire, the music demonstrates how these disparate states can co-exist, producing an emotional, evocative sound.

For Tonight feels audience-ready, with appealing, well-crafted songs. In larger set pieces such as Home, Stay and the standout track Oke Romano Chirklo, the layering of voices – even in a soundtrack format – gives you the kind of goosebumps normally reserved for an in-theatre experience. The love anthem Dark and Bright verges on euphoria, and the weaving of notes and phrases from Welsh and Romani culture works beautifully, grounding highly listenable songs in a sense of history.

An unknown story is always a gamble, but while some of the characterisation needs further development, the quality of the songwriting is what sells the musical. It’s coherent and clear-headed, told with humour and heart, delivered by a cast where the commitment to the project feels genuine. Just a few tweaks away from perfection, For Tonight, as a concept, as a hit show, really has potential.

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An emotional, evocative sound

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The Reviews Hub London is under the acting editorship of Richard Maguire. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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