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Magic has entered the streets of Brooklyn and tells us a bittersweet fairytale in Mark Shoenfeld and Barri McPherson’s musical. BKLYN, directed by Dean Johnson, is a story inside a story that embraces the miracle of musicals.
The tale of love and loss and of finding yourself is told and sung by a couple of street singers who have come together in an abandoned warehouse in Brooklyn. Gathered in a circle, the Street Singer (Newtion Matthews) begins to tell the story of Taylor (Jamie Muscato) and Faith (Sejal Keshwala) who meet in the heart of Paris and immediately fall in love. The romance between the French dancer and aspiring singer enkindles and bears the fruit of their daughter Brooklyn (Emma Kingston). But Taylor is called to join the army and so Faith is left to raise Brooklyn by herself, equipped only with a lullaby – a melody – that only Taylor and she share. Brooklyn’s mother commits suicide leaving her five-year-old daughter to grow up in an orphanage only to become an acclaimed singer. And so, Brooklyn conquers America to look for her father and complete the lullaby that her parents had started.
Accompanied by a saxophone (Richie Garrison) and a cello (Georgina Lloyd-Owen) the street singers called the City Weeds transform the warehouse in a magical space, jumping back and forth between the two stories. Their world very much lets us in on the gritty, harsh reality of their lives, whereas Brooklyn’s side of the story is accompanied by glitz and glam – until the moment when it exposes what’s hidden beneath the lights and the sparkle. Production Designer Andrew Exeter has done a wonderful job dressing the Ugly Duck Space to give it the look of a hidden but magical place somewhere in Brooklyn. With sheets of music, mystical lights and a costume design that helps us feel the grittiness that fame, and the loss of love can bring with them, BKLYN indulges in the idea of miracles.
Swapping back and forth between their performances as the City Weeds and the characters in Brooklyn’s life, the performers deliver a wide range of fabulous vocal performances. From power ballads (notably Marisha Wallace’s performance of ‘Superlover’ and Kingston’s delivery of ‘Once Upon a Time’) to bittersweet soliloquies, the musical takes us on an emotional rollercoaster.
Although initially written for the stage, Lambert Jackson productions’ recorded version of this magical musical is quite an achievement. The cinematography and design bring the heartfelt story across well as it dips in and out of the characters’ lives. The warm, comforting tint of the piece embrace the glamour of Broadway and the West End.
BKLYN is a wonderful fairy-tale that goes to show what can happen “if you happen to be born on the right piece of dirt in the right part of town”.
BKLYN is playing online until 4 April 2021. For more information and tickets visit Stream Theatre’s website.