In August 1911 an Italian patriot stole Leonardo Da Vinci’s celebrated painting of the Mona Lisa (aka La Gioconda or La Joconde) from the Louvre Museum in Paris, believing that one of the greatest works of Italian art should be returned to the country where it belonged. It had been acquired by the King of France and had been exhibited in the Louvre since 1797. The thief was one Vincenzo Peruggia who hid in a cupboard in the Louvre after closing time, cut the painting from its frame and walked out with it under his coat. The rest is art history.
Laurence Mark Wythe has fashioned his new musical around the theft of the painting and tells the story of its subsequent reclamation. Wythe dramatises these events quite clearly, although at the moment the show may need some edits in order to sustain complete audience interest. That said, however, the cast assembled for the reading were in terrific voice.
Kieran Brown as Peruggia has a strong, richly-toned voice, and his personality has enough charisma to make us feel that, despite his actions, the man is truly a hero. Loula Geater as his brother Vittorio’s wife Sophie, was also very moving, while David Bedella was astonishingly powerful as Vincenzo’s father. Other good work came from Matthew White and Jon Robyns, and all were supported by an excellent chorus.
Wythe is an award-winning composer and lyricist. His 2011 Off-Broadway musical Tomorrow Morning has now been seen on four continents, having played seasons in London (twice), Chicago and Connecticut in the USA, twice in Melbourne, Australia, and in Tokyo and Seoul. He will reflect on his experiences with the show in the forthcoming second issue of Musical Theatre Review.