13th Jun 2012 10:36am | By Louise Kingsley
Having a concept is all very well, so long as it serves the play rather than the other way round.
And although 21st century multicultural America makes a justifiable contrasting backdrop to the early 20th century aspirations of the characters of E.L. Doctorow’s 1975 novel, Timothy Sheader’s revival of the 1998 musical adaptation doesn’t always satisfy.
The set is a pile of rubble and discarded present day trash, topped with an Obama poster. One by one, the cast relinquish their contemporary dress in favour of period costume as the stories of a black ragtime pianist, a New Rochelle WASP mother, and an Eastern European Jewish immigrant intersect and collide with historical figures such as industrialist Henry Ford, escapologist Harry Houdini and free-thinking anarchist Emma Goldman.
The themes of religious and racial prejudice still come across strongly, and there’s some witty choreography as well as an impassioned performance from Rolan Bell’s Coalhouse and moving ones from John Marquez’s widowed Tateh (trying to make a life for himself and his daughter in an unwelcoming foreign land) and Rosalie Craig’s Mother (crossing the social boundaries). But there’s generally too much going on and this epic tale of American dreams (both broken and fulfilled) flounders until night draws in and the darkening sky overhead increases the tension on stage.
Open Air Theatre | Inner Circle, Regents Park, NW1 4NR
Tube | Baker Street
£22.50 - £49.50 | Until 8th September