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Valley of Song – Finborough Theatre, London

Writer: Phil Park

Music: Ivor Novello, Ronald Hanmer

Lyrics: Christopher Hassall

Director: Benji Sperring

Reviewer: Cavelle Leigh

[rating:2.5]

ValleyofSongOne might be tempted to call Valley of Song Ivor Novello’s swan song as he died half way through composing it. It was eventually completed by his collaborators and so the Finborough are now able to present it as a world premiere production. Directed by Benji Sperring, this gentle romance pertains to a time of yesteryear, recalling musicals gone by,in its love story between mezzo soprano Lily Morgan and orchestral maestro David Evans.

It opens in the serene, secluded valleys of Cromidris, a nod to Novello’s own heritage, where choirmaster David Evans played with subtlety by Linford Hydes unrequitedly lusts after restless, career minded Lily Morgan played by the talented Katy Treharne.Born to sing, she has a burning desire to fulfil her dream of becoming successful beyond her humble roots. And in the first act, one witnesses how the melancholy David pines for his sweetheart who is wholly indifferent to his affections, wanting to explore the world and all it has on offer.

Overall, one couldn’t help but feel that more time and investment was needed in each of the character’s performances to make the piece more believable. Nan Brewster played by Sandy Walsh, the wise matriarch and owner of Brewster’s Emporium where there is ‘nothing to buy over sixpence’ is dry in her delivery and does not appear to care when Lily is in danger of falling in love with playboy Ricardo Favero (Richard Mark.)Further, despite her wonderful and emotive singing voice, one was unconvinced that fickle Lily was perhaps in love with either suitor, even when she expressed relief that David was safe and well having served in action in the First World War. Certainly Treharne can belt out a tune, but garnering emotion in the audience is another matter.

A highlight was the sparring banter between Gwilim (Lee van Geleen) and Olwen Jones (Jill Nalder) who were both humourous and adorable in equal measure. The choir too were enthusiastic and worked well within their limitations.Though there were moments of comedy here and there, the musical didn’t always convey the light-hearted joviality often epitomised by Novello, an indication perhaps of how much had yet to be done after his death. The set would benefit from a few changes of scenery, and the costumes needed more colour and before one’s eyes was a sea of beige, making the musical visually rather dull. The music certainly picked up in the second half with punchier, more memorable tunes but, despite much promise, Valley of Song suffers from its largely neutral cast and unimaginative scenery.

Runs until 25th January

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