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Whistle Down the Wind review at Palace Theatre London

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Even Andrew Lloyd Webber’s failures are sometimes more interesting than many others’ successes. After the premature recent demise of The Woman in White at the Palace Theatre, the West End now sees the early return of Whistle Down the Wind to replace it there, just five years after its original production closed at the Aldwych following a run of two and a half years.

While it may be a little too soon to be having it back, it certainly proves its composer’s extraordinary eclecticism. Even if he is clearly more comfortable, musically and emotionally, in the lush romanticism of the Phantom’s lair or the operatic Victorian melodrama of The Woman in White, he can still also harness the rock and pop impulses that propelled Jesus Christ Superstar into his first international megahit.

But while that earlier show found himself writing in his own distinctive voice, the trouble with Whistle Down the Wind is that it is too often begged, stolen or borrowed, sometimes from himself. A derivative assembly that draws on loud rock riffs (‘Tire Tracks and Broken Hearts’), soupy pop ballads (the chart-topper ‘No Matter What’), gospel spiritual (‘The Vaults of Heaven’) and country (‘Cold’), not to mention a cloying, annoying number for the large kids choir, ‘When Children Rule the World’, tells the story of a late 50s American encounter between three motherless children and a escaped convict who turns up in their barn and they imagine to be Jesus Christ.

But if the show is full of jarring shifts of emotional and melodic registers, Bill Kenwright’s touring revival that has now set up temporary home here as a filler before Spamalot’s arrival in September gives it a strongly-sung sincerity and warmth. It is capably led by the brooding presence of Tim Rogers as the convict, and Claire Marlowe as the appealing, vulnerable Swallow who makes an unexpected connection with him.

Production Information

Palace Theatre, London, March 15-June 3, 2006

Director
Bill Kenwright
Producer
Bill Kenwright, by arrangement with the Really Useful Group Ltd
Cast includes
Tim Rogers, Claire Marlowe
Running time
2hrs 25mins
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