John Robinson and Phil Willmott’s musical adaptation of Lady Chatterley’s Lover is sadly uninspired and somewhat directionless
“Nothing will come between us”
Whether unfairly or not, Lady Chatterley’s Lover carries with it a degree of steamy notoriety which you might have thought would give it a leg up (or leg over) in the streaming market. But instead of taking a steer from what Sean Bean did to my teenage loins, John Robinson (music and lyrics) and Phil Willmott (book) have filleted out any hint of impropriety which rather flattens out this new musical into something a bit too dull.
Shifting the focus so fully onto the class struggles of the story, something hammered home a little too much on the nose with an undoubtedly effective split-level set from Andrew Exeter, robs it of all the emotional texture that comes from DH Lawrence’s exploration of love in its different forms. Neither book nor lyrics show any interest in the psychology of it all, instead ending up functional in the extreme and consequently not engaging enough.
Musically, Robinson’s score also suffers from a lack of clear identity. He has a way with a soaring melody to be sure, and Bjorn Dobbelaere’s orchestrations certainly add an appealing lushness. But whereas something like The Hired Man drew on English folk music to find specificity, too many of these songs fall into a generic MT category that could belong to most any kind of show. Ultimately, it all feels like a rather old-fashioned iteration of musical theatre.
I mean not to be harsh but to be frank – in an evermore cut-throat industry, is there a place for musicals like this that do little to push the form? I’m not sure, but Sasha Regan’s production is full of performances that suggest they could give it a good go. Georgia Lennon’s Constance and Michael Pickering’s Mellors both give a good account and Emma Lindars is a real stand-out as the nurse, even with the most mundane of lyrics. A work-in-progress then, with quite some work to do.