A Reviews Round-up for new British musical The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button at Southwark Playhouse Elephant in London.
Based on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s short story, which was turned into a blockbuster film by David Fincher starring Brad Pitt, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is a heart-wrenching, timeless tale about a man who ages in reverse.
The musical stars Olivier Award-winner Jamie Parker (Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, The History Boys) as Benjamin Button, and Molly Osborne (Fiddler on the Roof, The Sez Party) as Elowen Keene.
The cast of actor-musician’s also includes Matthew Burns, Jonathan Charles, Oonagh Cox, Anna Fordham, Philippa Hogg, Damien James, Ann Marcuson, Jack Quarton, Benedict Salter, and Tonny Shim.
The show is adapted, written and directed by Jethro Compton (Wolf’s Blood), and with songs by Darren Clark (These Trees Are Made of Blood, The Wicker Husband).
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is running at Southwark Playhouse Elephant to 1 July 2023.
Read reviews from The Stage, Evening Standard and more, with further reviews to follow.
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button reviews
"Very strong, heartfelt new musical"
"New folk musical is soaring and swooningly romantic"
"The show premiered at Southwark Playhouse in 2019, but Compton’s production at the new Elephant venue has a larger ensemble, no puppets and a richer sound."
"The ever-brilliant Jamie Parker plays Benjamin, and thankfully there is no sign of prosthetics or anything more than Parker’s own physicality to show the character’s transition from old man to young boy."
"Any cynicism you may have brought in with you dissolves as all those lovely melodies take hold. Clark’s score is as much about the act of making music as anything else: there are lullabies, songs about songs and numbers used as vehicles for stories, all orchestrated by Clark to create an incredibly lush sound."
"A surprising delight"
"This musical version of the well-loved tale is full of rich, lovely numbers"
"A folkie musical adapted from F Scott Fitzgerald’s short story about a man who lives life in reverse, relocated to 20th century Cornwall? I approached this prospect with dread, only to find myself both charmed and moved."
"Writer Jethro Compton and composer Darren Clark’s show, first conceived in 2019, has a directness and simplicity that goes straight for the heart. It features a tight ensemble of actor-musicians led by Jamie Parker in the title role. Their harmonies alone are a source of joy."
"After some awkward “old man” acting in the early scenes, Jamie Parker is an impressive Benjamin, becoming visibly more spry but also more emotionally damaged as the action goes on. Wisely, Benjamin’s final regression into childhood is touchingly described rather than shown."
"Good-Hearted Musical Is Long on Incident but Short on Drama"
"Smartly refusing to be doggedly faithful, bookwriter and director Jethro Compton retains the arc of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s (very) short, fable-like story “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” but almost nothing else. Achieving an attractive life of its own on stage, the American story has been relocated to the coastal villages and tin mines of rural Cornwall with perfectly matched, lively and lovely Celtic folk music spiritedly played by a splendid cast. There is, however, a problem: the story itself."
"But by halfway through the long first act, the difficulties are showing. Benjamin’s situation is repetitive and predictable. The well-meshed creative team build expressive details into each scene but the inevitability of the story robs it of dramatic drive."
"Compton’s production, across his own multi-purpose wooden set of planking and boxes, is fleetly staged with minimal fuss and a key death in particular is simply and effectively done. But the longer the story proceeds, the more you wish he had been far more ruthless with his own book, which is crowded with incident rather than excitement."
"Should be the next must-see musical"
"Harry Potter and the Cursed Child’s Jamie Parker is an ideal fit in this tender story"
"Shepherding a new musical into life is a painstakingly lengthy, not to mention costly business, requiring dedication and determination in equal measure. Many promising contenders fall on this daunting obstacle course, especially when not backed by deep-pocketed corporate bucks, but just sometimes the little show that can, crosses the finish line in triumph."
"Now, Jethro Compton (book, lyrics, direction and design) transposes the idea to his native Cornwall, a shift that, in tandem with Darren Clark’s music and lyrics, proves to be inspired, with the music smoothing the story’s more awkward contours."
"It is skilfully performed by strolling troubadours. A handsomely gruff Jamie Parker takes the title role, Molly Osborne is lovely as Benjamin’s wife, and clever lyrics create a nicely nonchalant humour."
"Despite the far-fetched plot there is plenty to admire, not least the musicianship, which creates a sense of rolling gig, rather like the musical Once."
"This utterly beautiful, achingly emotional new musical"
"Jamie Parker bewitches in the lead role"
"To watch such talent is deeply moving, even before the story of love, loss and redemption brought me to laughter and (more than once) tears."