It was incredibly refreshing to head into the hustle and bustle of the city centre on Saturday to see a brand new piece of musical theatre. Adrian Kimberlin has left no stone unturned in this new musical, The Stars That Remain. Marking the premiere of this production, it seemed fitting that the show found its home in the Old Joint Stock Theatre, where the piece had been previously supported by the Open Doors initiative. In Kimberlin’s note he mentions how the show has re-shaped and re-formed over the six years he has been working on it and having written the book, music and lyrics himself, there is no denying that this is an impressive feat.
Kimberlin has crafted some beautiful music, with particular highlights including Erase, Delete, Undo, Haunt Me, Au Revoir, Starstruck Lovers and Ghost To Be Gone. There’s a real spark in these numbers and the talented cast bring out the best in Kimberlin's compositions.
Set in a small British town, The Stars That Remain follows the story of the Hartson family and a host of other characters whose lives all entwine in unexpected ways. The fragility of life is exposed in this raw and emotional tale of love, loss and friendship. The success of this show lies in the Hartsons, they are the beating heart of this piece of theatre. Hugh Blackwood, Sarah Riches, Lucy Follows and Ashleigh Aston suit their respective roles to perfection - they form a formidable quartet of talent. Follows brings a real innocence to Poppy, whilst Aston fiercely takes on the resilient Rosa. Blackwood breathes sheer joy into the character of Ian and Riches has an undeniable warmth and generosity as Vivian.
There is great support from the ensemble of characters (Paul Lumsden, Tim Benjamin, Neil Jacks, Pete Beck, Dru Stephenson, Jeni Hatton), but particular mention must go to Charlotte Middleton whose Angela was a force to be reckoned with. Capturing the devastating effects of alcoholism (just one of the many themes Kimberlin’s show unpicks) Middleton was a triumph.
Director Alan Magor has captured the beauty of this show and there were a number of moments where audience members were visibly wiping away tears (including myself).
Admittedly, there are some flaws. It runs too long at 3 hours and there are a few elements that could be adjusted to help tighten up the storyline, but at its core, when all the superfluous characters and additional storylines are stripped away there is one beautiful family with a heart-wrenching story.
I can’t wait to see the show’s life beyond this premiere and I hope it continues to grow into a gem of new musical theatre.
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