I was intrigued by the idea of Fairyland: The Musical, which premiered at the Rhoda McGaw Theatre in Woking. With music, lyrics and direction by Peter Frow, it is a sequel to the short film he directed starring Virginia McKenna, in which an elderly lady goes missing for some months before turning up, apparently having been to Fairyland. The show actually begins with a screening of this short film, which sets the scene for what is to follow: an adventure in which Grandmother Vicky returns to Fairyland in search of her husband, who went missing during the Second World War, followed by her daughter, son-in-law and grandson Flyn, who falls in love with the beautiful fairy Elfine and is chosen to defeat the evil fairy Scatterjack.
The show has a great deal of potential: many of the songs are strong and the story is an appealing one. However, unfortunately I felt the current production left a lot to be desired. The production relied on videos and a digital screen rather than props for much of the time, and while it worked to an extent it did lead to something of a bare stage. The scene changes weren’t fluid and were often abrupt: a scene would end, the lights would go out and the music would stop for several seconds before the new scene began. Some of the effects were poor and seemed rather half-hearted. The sound was sometimes out of whack, with the music drowning out the actors on stage: to be fair, it was the first performance and this is something that could easily be improved as the week wore on.
The acting and singing was variable, though I was impressed by the evil fairy Scatterjack (who looked and sounded as though he’d come straight out of an Eighties rock video, no bad thing) and some of the fairy chorus. I did have some issues with aspects of the story: for one thing, it would be impossible for a present-day sixteen-year-old boy like Flyn to have a grandfather who disappeared during World War II, and I found it hard to believe that his grandmother, given her [spoiler] fairy heritage, would have taken so many decades to go looking for her missing husband. One song features Scatterjack singing nasty things about a hobgoblin, which is present on stage in puppet form: while the hobgoblin is rather sweet, and would make an entertaining addition to the show, the song is his first and only appearance in the production, making it seem rather out of place.
I have to admit that I was rather disappointed by this production. I did expect it to be better than it was. However, I do think that it really has a lot of potential, and with the right changes could be a superb family musical.