The Dreamers

Dreamers

Community musical piece on the Great War performed with passion and commitment. Read review here:

dreamers

The Dreamers, the new original World War One musical currently running in the main house at St James Theatre was written and performed by a couple of young composer/musicians, James Beeny and Gina Georgio, and a community theatre group in Tunbridge Wells comprising mainly young people.

Writing a commemorative song for their band The Virgin Soldiers, Beeny and Georgio’s research led them to a local hero Reggie Salomons, who led a battalion to Gallipoli and made the ultimate sacrifice for his men. He was 19 years old. Gradually, a whole theatre piece developed from the song.

The band and choir performed the anthem at a charity event held in Australia House, where actress Amanda Redmond was present. Moved by their music and interest in the subject, she offered support. A draft of the current piece was performed in Tunbridge Wells, where some London producers were present, and now the fully fledged costumed piece can be seen at St James.

I will admit that initially I braced myself for over-sentimentality. What I saw was genuinely moving, and an original and unusual take on the subject.

The present-day dressed musicians, playing both classical stringed instruments with electric guitars and keyboards, are placed in front of a screen showing films from the time and pre-recorded narration from Amanda Redman, Tim Rice and familiar BBC broadcasters, giving comment as the contemporary Cabinet.

The costumed drama is played out in front of them, making full use of the apron stage. No attempt is made to deny that this is a modern-day response to the War, with modern music and sound, giving it a historical distance through which to the view the action.

It was apparent the cast are not professional, but rather than diminishing the production, the naivety of the young people playing the soldiers and women added to its poignancy, reminding one of the innocence of many of the real Great War soldiers. There were also some very good children in the cast.

Although this is more of a narrated story with music and song, than a crafted musical with a plot and character development, tending to give a feel of ‘history for schools’ documentary, it is the sheer heartfelt passion and commitment of everyone involved that is palpable and thrilling.

They were singing for this “ancient land” with unabashed patriotism, without losing any sense of humanity, and their pride in the piece they created is justified.

The production is by no means perfect, but the passion of those involved make this one of the best community pieces I have seen.

Fiona-Jane Weston

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About Fiona Jane Weston

I am Fiona-Jane Weston and as well as being a performer myself (see website), I write reviews of and features on shows, mainly on the London cabaret and theatre scene. I have worked in theatre for many years, but decided to embark on a new direction in cabaret in 2009, when I produced 20th Century Woman: The Compact Cabaret. Not wanting to neglect my love of spoken word, particularly drama and verse, I made the conscious decision to include these elements in the programme, as well as wonderful songs, to tell the story of women's changing status and preoccupations throughout the 20th Century and up to now. I was invited to audition for the renowned Cabaret Conference at Yale, run by the late legendary Erv Raible, and that was thrilled to be one of only 26 accepted that year, where I was taught by the masters of the genre. Amanda McBroom (composer of the Bette Middler hit "The Rose" and the poignant "Errol Flynn"), Laurel Massé, original member of Manhattan Transfer, Sally Mayes, Tony Award nominees Sharon McNight and Tovah Feldshuh, and New York cabaret veteran Julie Wilson were all on the faculty. We were also treated to the musical direction of Alex Rybeck, Hubert Tex Arnold and the now late Paul Trueblood. With the benefit of their insightful teaching and great encouragement, I took my show to The Duplex in New York, where I was delighted with the response. Since then, I have produced Loving London: The Capital Cabaret, using the same format of songs, poetry and drama, in various London venues, including Leicester Square Theatre and The Crazy Coqs. 2014, the centenary of World War 1, saw the launch of Wartime Women: the Khaki Cabaret to a sellout house at St. James Theatre, London, garnering great notices, including from The Times and Musical Theatre Review. I have since been touring the show to Belgium and throughout the UK. I hope these reviews and interviews entertain and educate at the same time, and if please do leave comments in the box. It's great to engage in a conversation about the Arts. Fiona-Jane Weston
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