Six Nights in Naples was performed by final year BA Musical Theatre student from the London College of Music at Lawrence Hall, University of West London.
Star rating: four stars ★ ★ ★ ★ ✩
The Lawrence Hall on the campus of the University of West London is currently hosting the world premiere of a brand new musical staged by students at the London College of Music, now part of this faculty since it moved from Great Marlborough Street in the 1990s.
The book and lyrics for Six Days in Naples are by Eden Phillips and the music is by Richard Link, the show’s musical director. The story is set in Naples in the city’s famous San Carlo Opera House in 1943 where British soldiers have taken shelter as they wait for reinforcements before advancing up mainland Italy. While there they receive a directive to put on a show in six days to greet the arrival of their comrades in arms.
The author calls it a ‘fantastical tale’ that, without giving too much of the plot away, has a supernatural dimension as well a theme beloved of countless films and shows of yesteryear: high art versus popular culture, opera or Broadway show.
It says a lot about the expertise of Phillips’ book that this old cliché doesn’t pall but rather enhances the juxtaposition between the drama and the lighthearted scenes. Phillips, who counts musical versions of Alfie and Love in a Cold Climate amongst his credits, knows just the right moment to surprise us with a plot development to sustain his yarn spinning along in high gear.
The balance between music and dialogue, where one takes over from the other, is judged to a tee. His book throws up a number of deft exchanges such as the Italian Diva enquiring of the stiff upper lip Army Captain: “I didn’t know you were that romantic?”/“I’m not, I’m English.”
The fluency of his writing is buoyed up by the effervescent and tuneful score by Richard Link. On this evidence, Link is a major player as a music theatre composer, and a talent to watch. His score bubbles merrily along levitating this show into the beta plus class. It ranges from the gently nostalgic ‘I Could Be At Home’ to the Latin-flavoured ‘Seraphina’, an ensemble expertly choreographed by director Marc Urquhart with Alexandra Brailsford and Emma Evans.
Significantly Link has that rare ability to fashion a piece that weaves solos, duets and group numbers with a light hand, moving from one to the other seamlessly. His band too is top-notch.
From an array of acting-singing talent several individual performances stand out. Jessica Pegram cuts a beguiling figure as Mariangela, transformed from a mute male into a lively beauty. In the posse of British soldiers, all individual characters and good singers too, the engaging performance of Matthew Traher as Lieutenant Brown is one to note.
Kian Zomorodian as the Captain, a tricky part to play, brings the house down with his transition from wimp to military man, and making his entrance playing bagpipes is Danny Merrill as the flamboyant Major Carl O’Leary, or is he?
War like noises offstage set the opening scene in the deserted theatre with spectral figures in white moving to a Neapolitan tune from the fiddle player Salvatore, the balletic figure of Andrew Sowrey.
The creative team maintains the spell cast by this opening scene and Six Nights in Naples is given a generous welcome that is fully deserved.