Reviews are in for Local Hero at Chichester Festival Theatre.
Bill Forsyth’s famous 1983 movie gets a dazzling stage makeover in this new production directed by outgoing Chichester Festival Theatre Artistic Director Daniel Evans. Adapted for the stage by Bill Forsyth and David Greig (Dr. Seuss’s The Lorax), this heart-warming musical comedy features original music from Dire Strats’ Mark Knopfler – some new, some from his score for the film – and dazzling set pieces from designer Frankie Bradshaw.
Gabriel Ebert makes his UK stage debut as ambitious Texas oil tycoon, Mac; alongside lead cast Lillie Flynn, Paul Higgins, Hilton McRae and Jay Villiers . Rounding out the cast are: Ali Craig, Rachael Kendall Brown, Jackie Morrison, Rodney Earl Clarke, Julie Cullen, Liz Ewing, Murray Fraser, Craig Hunter, Joshua Manning, and Betty Valencia.
When Mac MacIntyre, a Texan oil exec arrives in Scotland on a mission to replace a small seaside village with an oil refinery, he’s met with concerned residents. It’s the deal of a lifetime, but Mac soon finds that putting a price on this beautiful spot is more complicated than he bargained for. Before the locals get rich, they must decide what their home is worth.
Choreography is by Sasha Milavic Davies, lighting by Paule Constable with Ryan Day, sound by Paul Arditti, musical direction by Richard John, orchestration by Dave Milligan, video design by Ash J Woodward and casting by Charlotte Sutton CDG and Jim Carnahan CSA.
Local Hero is playing in the Minerva Theatre, Chichester Festival Theatre until 19 November 2023.
"Entertaining, not quite enchanting"
"Evans has a sure way with a musical, and from the moment the grey thrust stage is half-dismantled to reveal a sandy floor to summon up the village of Furness, this feels as if it might be something special. As it turns out . . . almost."
"Granted, the ending, which makes fine use of the film’s famous red phone box, is a bittersweet twist on expectations. Overall, though, since everyone is a sweetheart underneath, even Mac’s eccentrically demanding boss, this ends up a smidgin too sweet; a cranachan without the whisky."
"A beloved film turned into a remarkable musical comedy"
"The strength of this production of Local Hero is that it draws on such narrative tropes, but injects them with an irreverence and an existential philosophy to create a far more interesting production than most other musicals on the UK stage."
"Local Hero blends exuberant musical comedy with an anti-capitalist cautionary tale and rumination on our place in the universe."
"It is also a wonderfully evocative homage to coastal Scottish life: I had Gaelic folk tunes ringing through my head all the way back to London."
"Musical misses the magic of Bill Forsyth’s classic"
"In spite of a nifty set and new songs, this story of an oil-man trying to buy a Highlands village never quite comes alive"
"it does not bring the same magic as that film and feels dated in its environmental message, and rather inert in its drama, although Daniel Evans directs with characteristic imagination. There is also an especially nifty set by Frankie Bradshaw, which turns the stage into a giant metallic ocean wave."
"A Sweetly Delightful New Musical, Despite Lackluster Songs"
"Charm, a sadly rare theatrical quality, is scarcely a fashionable theatrical virtue, but it’s nonetheless valuable. And, to audiences’ evident delight, it’s there in spades in director Daniel Evans’ wonderfully fluid farewell production"
"Grieg’s warmly witty book, mined for every detail by Evans’ immensely characterful cast, offers more to play with than many a contemporary musical (a vast improvement on his “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”), but the downside is that instead of further developing the story, Knopfler’s songs feel like illustration. The effect is often of a play interrupted."
"There’s a sweetness to the show that is sometimes whimsical but undeniably appealing. And, for the most part, it evokes sentiment rather than trading in sentimentality. It’s just a shame that the songs only occasionally enrich it, and more often shortchange it."
"Every element is great. Lovely performances from Paul Higgins as local barman-cum-hotelier-cum-accountant-cum-lawyer Gordon; from Gabriel Ebert as puppyish oil exec Mac, who falls in love with the town of Ferness; and from Lillie Flynn as Stella, a character given a much bigger role than in the film, who has a wonderful voice. "
"This adaptation is witty and watchable – but that enchantment never quite finds its way on to the stage."
"Daniel Evans's farewell production in Chichester, before he takes charge of the Royal Shakespeare Company next year, is a great improvement. That's thanks also to a terrifically warm turn from American Gabriel Ebert as Mac and Paul Higgins as local fixer, Gordon — roles originally played by Peter Riegert and Denis Lawson."
"Although played here with all the fizz of an electric Ceilidh, I'm not sure Knopfler's score entirely possesses the story."
"... the story's trump cards remain not just it's heart-warming plot, but also its sharply drawn characters deftly translated by David Greig"
"Local Hero is appealing, but not dynamic enough for the best display of Evans’s talents"
"It is Mark Knopfler’s music that makes landscape and steers the audience from the States to Scotland, with electric and acoustic guitar, double bass, fiddle and – hurrah – accordion. The bleakness of Rocks and Water has a lingering beauty. Filthy Dirty Rich has a boisterous sticking quality. The tanginess of the band – no big swooping strings – is like a spray of salt washing the traditional musical. Not, though, quite a turning of the tide."