The Sorcerer’s Apprentice brushes up well as a classy and confident new British musical
“You must be a young lady of extraordinary power”
Thwarted out of its planned run at the Southwark Playhouse at the beginning of the year, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice has worked its own kind of magic to re-emerge as an online production, available now to stream at stream.theatre over the next couple of weeks. And we should be mighty glad that it has, as it turns out to be a refreshing twist on familiar material, family-friendly without talking down to its audience and ultimately, a really rather lovely new British musical .
Acknowleding the relative paucity of Goethe’s original poem, Richard Hough’s book imagines a much richer world in which brooms can eventually go crazy. The show is set in Midgard, a place up in the far north with a unique and precarious relationship to the aurora borealis, one which is challenged by the desire for economic progress. There, only a single-father sorcerer and his rebellious daughter exploring her own magical potential can save the day, but they can barely talk properly together.
Director Charlotte Westenra brings her wondrous sense of imagination to bear once again (her work in The Wicker Husband was an early casualty of Covid-19), conjuring up a world which is equal parts ethereal and everyday. Magic dances beautifully through scenes courtesy of Scott Penrose’s illusions and Steven Harris’ choreography but there’s an earthy humour too, especially in scenes of familial dischord.
Ben Morales Frost’s score also achieves a marvellous balancing act of rock-solid, rousing musical theatre and something else altogether more mysterious, utilising an intriguing sound palette to suggest that something ‘other’, which ends up powerfully personified through Maia Krikman-Richards’ puppet design. Creatively it is a show that is firing on all cylinders and whilst I would have loved to have seen it in the intimate atmosphere of its intended venue, it is no exaggeration to say that you could see it slotting easily into a West End house, such is its confidence.
That quality is in no small part also down to a brilliantly cast ensemble. Professional debutant Mary Moore shimmers in the title role, awkward teenage energy and emotional growth spilling from an intelligent read of the character. She’s matched by David Thaxton’s soaring vocal power as her father and Yazdan Qafouri’s adorkable chemistry as the boy next door, and challenged by the brilliant bumbling of Marc Pickering’s Fabian and a superbly scene-scealing turn from Dawn Hope as his menacing mother Lamia.