Queen Of The Mist Presented by Pint of Wine Theatre Company
What is it?
The 2011 musical by Michael John LaChiusa that follows the life of Annie Edson Taylor, the first person to survive a trip over Niagara Falls in a barrel.
What's it all about?
A school teacher who feels destined for greatness, Annie Edson Taylor (Trudi Camilleri) finds herself at age 63, with nothing to show for herself. Deciding to take matters into her own hands, Annie builds a custom made barrel and travels over Niagara Falls in it. Feeling alienated from her only sister, and with no real ties her motives are mainly financial. Being a woman but acting like a man is not something that society takes kindly to, however with the support of her manager and friend Mr Frank Russell (Will Arundell), she is able to make the plunge. But the fame and fortune that Edson Taylor hoped for, is not quite as she imagined. Desperate to cling on to her five minutes in the spotlight, she keeps the most important details of her fall private, and soon finds her public has forgotten her, and that her money and friends have gone with it.
Swindled and alone Annie goes through Managers like no one's business, often finding herself in similar positions to the one she was in with Mr Russell. As Annie enters the final moments of her life, she is haunted by the ghosts of her past and accepts her quiet lonely death as her own.
How did it make me feel?
This was a very complicated show for me. The issue was never with the cast or musicians, or with the creative team's wonderful staging, choreography or direction. However, it was the complicated, convoluted, plot that was most difficult to swallow. The character of Annie, was strange and angry. We had no back story, and no real understanding of where she had come from or why we should be on her team. In fact, I felt alienated from her myself, wanting so desperately to understand her strange ways, her bouts of anger that felt at many times to be incredibly out of place. Her need for a lavish life seems to stem from nowhere too, and the odd arc of her character is one that takes away from her being a strong female figure in history.
In Act Two especially, there is a lot of strange things going on, and the important plot point of Mr Russell stealing Annie's money is incredibly unclear and easy to miss which makes it all the more confusing when she tells him he is fired and demands money that does not seem to exist. There is also strange contemporary language added in Act Two that was not used in Act One which again, is incredibly unnerving and strange to witness.
However, the cast do a wonderful job of bringing these odd and often two-dimensional characters to life. Trudi Camilleri is vocally flawless, effortlessly belting the huge sing that is the entire show. Barely a moment where she is offstage, Camilleri manages the incredibly wordy book soundly, and the chemistry between herself and Arundell as Mr Russell is obvious. Stand outs from the ensemble include the often hilarious Emma Ralston as a journalist who struggles to spell words out on her typewriter, as well as Emily Juler as Annie's sister Jane and an Annie Edson Taylor impersonator.
Musical Director Jordan Li-Smith leads the fantastic musicians to greatness, as the clever score delivers a clear atmosphere and stirs emotive reactions from the audience throughout.
The choreography is also excellent, and Director Dominic O’Hanlon has used clever and polished movement that suits the style of the piece perfectly.
Where Is It Playing?
Queen Of The Mist is showing at The Brockley Jack Theatre. Incredibly, the company manages to fit in the live band as well as staging the show with precision and ease. A surprisingly perfect fit for this huge musical.
Pint Of Wine Theatre Company presents a show that is, creatively speaking, near on perfect. However, it is the show's story that let's it down, as it is another example of a woman's story being told through a man's lens.
Queen Of The Mist runs at the Brockley Jack Theatre until 27th April 2019.
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