The Likes of Us is the first musical by collaborators Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber, first written many years ago but only premiered in the last decade. It tells the real-life story of Thomas John Barnardo, who dedicated his life to combating child poverty in London.
It’s clear that the show is an early effort by inexperienced writers and composers: the dramatic tension is nil, the narrative framing device clumsy and the characters underdeveloped. Nevertheless, there are several strong songs and hummable melodies even in this early work, with the title song “The Likes of Us” a memorable Lloyd Webber melody, and the auction song, “Going, Going, Gone!” an early example of Rice’s lyrical talent.
The production itself is superb, impressive considering it is an amateur one. The Havering Music Makers are a very talented bunch, with strong performances all round including from the large ensemble of young children. James Knowles gives a good performance as Barnardo himself, while Lauren Frost is also very good as his partner and eventual wife Syrie. Ellen O’Shea as Rose shows off a brilliant singing voice, while Jason Markham turns the aforementioned auction song into a moment of comic delight.
The Likes of Us is certainly worth seeing if you are a fan of the Lloyd Webber/Rice partnership, and the Havering Music Makers are a group worth keeping an eye out for.