Book and Lyrics: Bob Eaton
Lyrics and Music: Sayan Kent
Director: Bob Eaton
Reviewer: Victoria Morris
Liverpool’s Royal Court is renowned for its Liverpudlian themed theatre, attracting local audiences and giving the ‘scouse’ people what they want, and Maggie May the Musical, despite its flaws, certainly ticks that box.
The musical, written and directed by Bob Eaton, whose credits include the award-winning Lennon, tells the story of an innocent Irish girl who has her heart set on New York, and is waylaid in Liverpool when she loses her bag and all her worldly goods. To earn a wage, she goes into domestic service and, seduced by her employer, discovers that when a girl falls for the wrong man she stands to lose more than just her possessions. She enters the world’s oldest profession to regain control of her own destiny, and subsequently finds herself gaining back control of her life.
The cast boast an impressive array of talent, with the actor-musician element of the production at the forefront of the view. The ensemble cast are situated at the front of each side of the stage, constantly in vision, and somewhat musically comment on the action happening centre stage. Each actor notably plays multiple instruments throughout the two-and-a-half-hour display, and moves around the stage confidently, whilst playing complex and stylised melodies in ensemble numbers; a solid presentation of a ‘triple threat’. It is, however, a real shame that there is a shortage of Liverpool accents on stage. In a musical that boasts that it’s set in the city itself, the distinct lack of the trademark ‘scouse accent’ on stage, causes the production to lose some of its much-needed authenticity.
Leading the cast of 11 is Irish native, Christina Tedders as Maggie. Tedders’ vocals are strong and she displays a confident, assured representation of the rather taxing character. She fronts the production with an assertive magnetism and classy acting style. Michael Fletcher, a Royal Court stage regular, seems to fall slightly short when matched with Tedders. His performance, whilst perfect for productions such as his recent appearance in the theatres Mam I’m ‘ere, lacks real depth in this particular light. Nevertheless, his cheeky approach and charisma appeals to the target audience. Eastenders actress, Cheryl Fergison is also rip-roaringly humorous in her smaller cameo roles.
Foxton’s detailed and intelligent set is boosted by the use of the round, originally installed in 1938. It adds a slick and stylish approach to the production and allows scenes to manoeuvre almost seamlessly without any use of blackouts or clunky, lengthy set changes. It really is excellent to see this wonderful addition to the theatre back in action after 40 years.
The musical has been in the Royal Court’s pipeline for 10 years, according to Executive Producer, Kevin Fearon, but unfortunately, this show feels somewhat underdeveloped despite its impressive cast. The storyline lacks real depth and clarity, and gets slightly ludicrous towards its final moments. Elements of musicals such as My Fair Lady and Spring Awakening are faintly present, although the topics are merely brushed upon, and then disregarded or fizzled out. It is challenging to empathise with the characters, as there is no real opportunity to explore the multiple (and perhaps too many) themes that are prevalent.
Maggie May is a comforting example that local theatre about local stories are still relevant and itching to be told. This one, however, might benefit from a second look.