There’s a charming story behind this musical: 20 years ago singer Barri McPherson stumbled upon Mark Schoenfeld singing on a Brooklyn street corner. She recognised his voice – they had worked together two decades previously and he’d fallen on hard times. She invited him to live with her family and together they wrote this musical.
But that’s where the charm ends. In this European premiere directed by Adam Haigh, we get a nonsensical-play-within-a-play where a grab-bag of street performers – the kind of people who aggressively play Hallelujah on the Tube, cloned five times and each given a different hat – tell a story.
Their story is about a girl called Brooklyn who goes to Brooklyn to find her father. She instantly becomes famous and has a sing-off with another famous singer who’s not very nice.
Their creation is like Hallmark slept with The X Factor final. “Sometimes with your tears you can water roses”, coughs up one character. Another sings a song about “rainbows”, “miracles” and “dreams”.
And while the songs themselves are pure syrup, what makes them worse is the way they’re performed. The cast are all fantastic singers, but it’s as if they’ve been told to belt every single note, miked to ear-splitting levels. Unnecessary ornamentation also gets completely in the way of melody lines.
Justin Williams’ set, a corner cutaway of a Brooklyn tenement, and Emily-Mae’s sassy performance as Paradice are highlights. But with every song built to climax like a closing number, and with the singers rising to the occasion each time, the show has nowhere to go from the off. Their excellent voices are misused, and the Brooklyn belt wears very thin.