ON paper, a sombre tale from the Great War may not sound the most obvious subject matter for a new musical.
As worthy as it may be, the thought of a history lesson set to music is possibly not the first choice of some theatre-goers.
But for me, The Dreamers hit all the right notes.
And even if history isn’t your bag, this show is essential viewing as the nation marks the one hundredth anniversary of the start of the First World War.
This brand new production, from the pen of talented Battle-based duo James Beeny and Gina Georgio, tells the tragic story of David Reginald Salomons, heir to the Salomons Estate, who led his regiment to the battlefields of Gallipoli.
James and Gina’s band The Virgin Soldiers, who hail from Sussex and Kent, were a constant presence on the stage, their haunting harmonies interweaved with some astonishing vocal performances from the ensemble of 21 young performers.
The story was narrated on large LED screens by actors Amanda Redman and Christopher Beeny, with special appearances by Sir Tim Rice, Philip Glenister, Sylvia Syms, Michael Buerk, Sue Holderness, Martin Bell, Pam Rhodes and Michael Simkins, all adding gravitas to the proceedings.
Although there were some light-hearted moments, The Dreamers managed to effectively capture the horror, the bravery and, ultimately, the futility of war.
In particular, Gina Georgio’s beautifully delicate and fragile voice encapsulated the heartbreak surrounding the Great War.
And if you don’t feel the tears pricking your eyes when confronted with images of poppy fields and rows of stark white war graves...well, there must be something wrong with you.
But amid all the horror of war, there was also a strangely uplifting look at how women’s roles changed when many had to take on the ‘male’ jobs the soldiers left behind.
At a time when the Suffragettes were battling for equal rights for women, the Great War proved a real game-changer.
The only slight criticism I could make about this production is that on occasion the soloists, who were turning in performances of a lifetime, struggled to be heard above the band.
But that is a minor issue and didn’t detract away from what was a powerful, sobering and thought-provoking piece of theatre.
The Dreamers will be making its West End debut in 2015.
Please make sure you do everything you possibly can to catch this stunning production.
Review by Laura Button.