‘ … beautifully executed and plenty to mull over after the show’
MAGGIE MAY premiered at the Adelphi Theatre in 1964. This revival has found its ideal home at the Finborough theatre, one of London’s premiere stages for airing political themes with current day resonances. The exquisite book by Alun Owen, sets the story in historical fact in relation to events at Liverpool docks which gives the show the kind of power rarely felt in musical theatre. This, plus its sympathetic handling of working-class life and hardships gives the show a gritty edge.
Surely, it’s ‘THE’ MAGGIE MAY. It is as though she is the figurehead of a ship, in this case a cargo ship with an assignment of guns. Maggie May, the lady-like street walker longing for a different life, has no power over her own destiny. Her lover sailor Patrick Casey is destined for greater things.
Upon discovering the guns which are to be used to break the unions in another country, the dock workers are driven to act. Casey, the son of a unionist martyr is the natural heir to the leadership. Reluctant at first, he eventually assumes the mantle with tragic consequences.
Everything about this musical is perfect, a calibre usually only achieved with enormous budgets in theatres with full size auditoriums. Bravo to the producers of MAGGIE MAY, who have a cast of thirteen to pay. Their risk has really paid off.
Fitting this musical into the Finborough’s more modest space is beautifully achieved. Well done to choreographer Sam Spencer Lane for such exciting dynamic moves, executed skilfully by the cast. Kara Lily Hayworth in the title role has a beautiful voice, a delight to hear, and James Darch as Patrick Casey has all the charm of a young Richard Gere. The peripheral characters are strongly drawn with David Keller as staunch Irish unionist Old Dooley, obsessed with past struggles, stealing the scenes. He stands in contrast to the younger men, and provides a conflict between them, which might have been comical if it had been drawn by a less skilled actor.
Finally, often overlooked, the sound design by Philip Matejtschuk and lighting design by Jonathan Simpson are impeccable, not intrusive but creating just the right amount of atmosphere.
Wonderful songs, and plenty to mull over after the show, the ethics of arms deals, female empowerment and the like. Highly recommended.
MAGGIE MAY at Finborough Theatre
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Director Matthew Iliffe
Set & Costume Design Verity Johnson
Choreography Supervision Sam Spencer-Lane
Musical Director Henry Brennan
Lighting Design Jonathan Simpson
Sound Design Philip Matejtschuk
Assistant Director Sophie Drake
Casting Debbie O’Brien Casting
Maggie May Kara Lily Hayworth
Patrick Casey James Darch
Willy Morgan Mark Pearce
Maureen O’Neill Natalie Williams
Judder Johnson Michael Nelson
Terry Collins Barnaby Taylor
Balladeer/Milkman Aaron Kavanagh
Niece/Ensemble Chloe Carrington
Gene Kierman Leon Kay
Eric Dooley Euan Bennet
Norah Mulqueen Cathy McManamon
Stevedore/Sailor/Ensemble Joshua Barton
Old Dooley David Keller
Reviewer Heather Jeffery is founder and Editor of London Pub Theatres Magazine www.londonpubtheatres.com @pubtheatres1 (Email: email@example.com)