The programme for The Dreamers lists technical, historical and military advisers, presumably employed to anchor the show’s rudimentary history lesson on the First World War in fact and not clumsy imagination. But there’s no dramatic adviser on-board to make sure the show avoids being mired in clunky cliché.
Unfortunately, such cliches abound in a show that’s more a theatrical concert and pageant than anything resembling a musical. No characters emerge out of the proceedings with any clarity or real narrative journey.
As concerts go, it is efficient enough, with a lively onstage band of six, including the composers on acoustic guitar and piano respectively as well as vocals, and the score has a punchy, folk-tinged anthemic quality. But the hopeless arrangement of the sprawling cast of 22 gives it no shape or drama, and entirely gratuitous celebrity appearances (onscreen, not in person) are made by the likes of Christopher Beeny, Sylvia Syms and Sue Holderness as narrators. Even more bizarrely, a war cabinet commenting on the progress of the war comprises lyricist Tim Rice, actors Philip Glenister and Michael Simkins and journalists Michael Buerk and Martin Bell.
It’s undoubtedly a well-intentioned evening, performed with spirit and commitment by what feels something like a community chorus. But it fails at a rudimentary level to be anything more than a concert with lights and video.