I went to see the 14:00 show Ben Elton and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Boys in the Photograph today. What follows are my thoughts on the show, a revised version of the 2000 musical The Beautiful Game. I shall also spend a little time discussing the production itself.
On the New Title … p.2
On the Book … p.3
On the Score … p.4
On the Production … p.5
RIGHT: As yet, the only English cast recording of material from The Boys in the Photograph is the 2000 recording of The Beautiful Game.
I saw this production twice. I bought the recording of ‘The Beautiful game’ a few weeks before watching the show, and already got the sense of an empty hole in the whole musical, and was curious to see if the new production would fix that. I
I feel the changes were minor and if anything, took away from the original. Mainly, I love the song ‘Our Kind of Love’ from the original, and I do not agree with the composer that the melody was ill fitting and worth scrapping, or rather, phantomised. It is a beautiful melody and provides a good shift in style from the rest of the score which is generally less quicker and short phrased. Perhaps, if the new home of the melody worked, I would have let this go, but as Love Never Dies, it does little for me.
The new title song, as you very successfully put it, needs to be worked in to the show much more strategically. Now, if there ever was a song that does not feel right, it is The Boys in the Photograph and not the late Our Kind of Love.
Absolutely what I thought about Born in Belfast- nice but really a rehash of ‘Tire Track and Broken Hearts’. The title projections were bland.
I think, as you’ve pointed out, that there is way too much conceptional elements in the show, and too little drama. The way the photograph of the players has been used as a motif and a kind of metaphor made me think of it as a motif, and did not help me suspend my disbelief further into the story. I dislike the way the boys fade out one by one on the screen, it is way too obvious. The whole idea of a photograph is a beautiful thought- sentimental and a snapshot of young life, caught before the boys get caught by the world’s divides. However, to blow it up like this drains it of spontaneity, and I was deflated and a bit disappointed in how it is written into the show.
I agree that the choreography in this production is limited in ways, made worse by the problem of such a large set- the actors needed to make use of space and claim their world much more. Strangely, the soccer game choreography seemed very ‘staged’ to me, not groundbreaking enough. I am not entirely convinced by the staging of ‘God’s Own Country’, with the actor downstage right right through leaving the space deserted.
In general, I just struggle to like the convention of songs spread out with spoken dialogue in between each one, and no music to accompany. Some of my favourite shows, like Aspects of Love, are sung through, and though that is not the style of this musical, it still bothered me. This would be helped by your suggestion that the title song be divided throughout the piece in shorter motifs, that would link moments together, and tie up a story that I find really problematic in its current form.
I’m a big fan of Lloyd Webber, and thought Aspects of Love was awesome in the Joburg theatre last year. But when one friend asked me at interval (of The Boys), ‘So what is the story really?’, all I could say sounded like a concept, and I struggled to pitch the show to him- makes me wonder how Ben Elton/ LLoyd Webber cope with doing that.
I agree with your views on the ending. The original ending was much more touching and beautiful, and believable. I actually struggled to believe my eyes when John came back, and before I could even swallow this- the curtain went down. As if Ben Elton thought, ‘Okay folks, there’s your happy ending, now go home! Now leave me, I’ve got to figure out what Christine does when she sees the Phantom after 10 years on Coney Island, because the world cares so much!’
Thanks for great review!