Music: George Stiles
Lyrics: Anthony Drewe
Reviewer: Mark Clegg
The musical writing partnership of Stiles and Drewe has never really got the success or recognition that it deserves. From their award winning Honk!, through to their partnership with Disney writing the new songs that would stand alongside the Sherman brothers classics for Mary Poppins on stage, to their fantastic but short lived Betty Blue Eyes, these are two guys who know how to write for musical theatre. And yet only the most devoted of musicals fans will have been likely to have heard of them and with the exception of Mary Poppins, none of their shows have busted any blocks. This situation is frustrating for those who love their work but happily they continue to produce new scores, of which this is the studio cast recording one of their more recent collaborations.
Like many of their other works, Goldilocks and the Three Bears is of course based on children’s literature. Their past shows include an adaptation Peter Pan, a musical based on Kipling’s Just So fables and an ‘adult’ Cinderella in Soho Cinders. In fact these three bears make up part two of a trilogy of similar shows which started with three pigs and ends with three gruff billy goats. Quite why Stiles and Drewe insist upon this narrow approach to source material is unclear, especially since Betty Blue Eyes proved (if not commercially then critically) that they can handle branching out into more grown up territory.
Goldilocks and the Three Bears (as with the three goats and pigs) is specifically written for a young audience. There are no Shrek-style riffs on this over familiar tale. With the exception of an added environmental message that is not too gratuitous, it is just a straight retelling of the story aimed squarely at ages eight and under. And this makes it strangely both refreshing and somewhat disappointing.
The songs are all great. George Stiles’ music is as melodious as anything else he has written and takes on several styles to ensure a rich and textured score. Anthony Drewe’s lyrics work well for the piece although anyone familiar with his other work on less childish projects may feel frustrated by the apparent need for him to be somewhat muted for the sake of the target audience. These days, great songs regularly come out of TV shows aimed at pre-schoolers particularly those produced by Disney and the BBC, and this score can easily stand alongside the best of them.
Some of the songs almost push into the realms of standard musical theatre. Goldie’s “Just Because I’m a Girl” is a great ‘I want song’ and an anthem to equality that would fit well into the score of Matilda. “Itch and Scratch” is a catchy delight that allows Drewe to have some fun with the lyric, and “Porridge” is bound to get the kids giggling as Father and Baby Bear muddle up Mother Bear’s simple instructions on making breakfast. However as fun as the score is, the lack of any modern day self-awareness means that it holds little to keep the interest of accompanying adults.
The cast of five are all superb. David Badella, Leanne Jones and James Gillan are the lovable Father, Mother and Baby Bear respectively. Amy Lennox displays more spirit than is usual in the rôle of Goldilocks and Michael Xavier is Goldie’s father, Mr Locks the woodcutter. Ruth Ling’s orchestrations are also all very well produced with a big emphasis on up-beat fun. In fact this really is an excellent showcase of the talents of everyone involved… if only there was a little more substance to the material.
Highly recommended for the under eight in your life but no more than an amusing and incredibly well put together curio to any musical theatre fan. Here’s hoping that Stiles and Drewe find a worthy project for their considerable talents sooner rather than later. Perhaps something that displays a few more teeth and claws…