Queen of the Mist
Charing Cross Theatre
15th Aug to 5th October 2019
“Queen of the Mist explores the fickle world of celebrity and sensationalism with an unconventional heroine determined not to live an ordinary life. With a soaring score that incorporates turn-of-the-century themes with LaChiusa’s insightful and engaging style, this award-winning musical is the story of how one woman risked death so that she could live.”
Review by Richard Lambert, 3 Stars
How wonderful that the Charing Cross Theatre has remained in traverse for yet another musical. It works – when you have a brilliant Director like Dom O’Hanlon, who knows how to use the space so everyone in the audience feels they’re looking to the front of the production!
With a wonderful pitch-perfect choral quality from the cast and an incredible note perfect orchestra this is definitely a show for concert lovers!
The story is a simple one – lacking money to pay the rent, and looking for greatness, Anna Dawson Taylor, left her home and eventually came to Buffalo NY. With newspapers spouting other peoples’ failures to interact in various ways with the Niagara Falls she sets out to “shoot the falls in a barrel” and survive. And she did just that! Made even more remarkable by the fact that she was a 63 year old woman in a time when it was considered lewd and crass to be a female celebrity.
There’s a build up to the event which closes Act 1 magnificently.
Unfortunately, the 2nd half suffers the same fate as her life…..drawn out and rather low-key, talking about past achievements. Although done extremely well theatrically, there’s not much story left to tell.
The Stage floor is a marvel in itself! Set Designer Tara Usher had a stroke of genius when she designed a floor based on a flattened out wooden beer barrel. This was utilised so well by lighting designer Beth Gupwell in uplighting this floor through the barrel cracks. Looks fabulous! Along with the lighting design throughout which is just superb – matching the mood, musically in tune, and artistically brilliant!
The main character, Anna Dawson Taylor, according to this production, died in poverty. The Set however would suggest she died surrounded by what looks like expensive artifacts and nick-nacks all lit in display cabinet bookshelves – which would be far removed from poverty, so there was a bit of a disconnect in what we’re told and what we’re shown in the final scene.
One slight let down here is the choreography and the lines. After several lines of actors who are certainly not in a straight line you start to notice this, and then you look for this. It’s then apparent that the performer lines are never straight, spacing is never symmetrical and circles are off-centre. Even the Box Anna stands on in the finale is placed slightly off-centre. Perhaps it’s just me but I found this really distracting! You can tell from the pre-programmed lighting that the blocking is supposed to be centred. I suppose if you have to choose between singers and dancers the right choice has been made here, however it’s a shame that they can’t also space themselves better.
Aside from this, it’s a beautiful musical, incredibly strong on the music and vocals, making for a joyous evening at the theatre.