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Review: Columbine, A New Musical @ RWCMD

Posted by Weeping Tudor from Cardiff - Published on 22/02/2016 at 12:16
0 comments » - Tagged as Culture, Health, History, Music, People, Stage, Sport & Leisure, Topical

  • Columbine gun with American flag

Columbine, A New Musical

Dora Stoutzker Hall

Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama

Tuesday 16th February 2016

Few events of the past thirty years have truly had a lasting impact. But in 1999, the Columbine school shooting heralded the first of many massacres on civilian America that continues to reverberate today. Gun control has been a hot button topic ever since and the digesting of what happened that awful April morning is tough, to say the least.

No doubt you are reading this and thinking "Who on earth would ever turn this into a musical?". I had similar thoughts... till saw the show. This project is in its infancy and I'm certain it could actually become a success, even with it coming out of such an awful subject matter.

This is actually a very well-written musical, with the score by Michael Lowe a great selling point. With nods to John Adams, minimalism, heavy metal, Broadway and opera, it's a score brimming with vitality and it has huge appeal. Moments of real beauty are met with tears and some bitter-sweet smiles.

Since this piece is in its first guise, I would say maybe remove a song or two and focus more on Dylan's mother, Susan Klebold. The show is really about her and how the families have coped in the aftermath, becoming media-weary and wanting to speak on their own terms about how the boys were brought up and what happened in the end.

The scenes with Dylan and Eric are, at times, hard to watch. We see them preach about good and evil, try to obtain their desired guns and finally raise weapons at the audience (we became the victims). A few moments of humour shouldn't feel welcome in a piece like this. The inevitable events of the shooting linger in the audience's brains, as we witness the fragmented events take place before us. We shouldn't even feel these two characters should have the right to sing, even in a musical, because of their actions. But, that comes with the territory...

The lighting added great atmosphere to the show, as the set only consisted of some chairs, shutters and TV crew equipment. Luke Hereford has directed well, with a few snazzy touches here and there. The movements of the chorus are well-staged and the space is utilised well for the hour and a half.

The cast brings what feels like varying acting abilities (though the singing is expectedly university standard and well-delivered), but the effort and emotion throughout seeps through. Beth Wischhusen as Susan was, at times, absorbing. You feel you know this character and you want her side of the story. How does she feel that her son killed himself and many other people? The slightly crash interviewer, Cassie Robinson (played by Jana Holesworth) is a less dynamic character, who can't resist provoking Susan with a grilling about the past. In a few more versions, the acting and singing, for all, could become incredibly tight.

This was a daring thing to do and I'm pleased to say it has been pulled off. We need to see it developed and hopefully performed in London and, especially, at the Edinburgh Fringe.

Bold, moving and musically charged.

Rating: 4 stars

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