The Go-Between, a new musical adapted and written by David Wood and Richard Taylor, sparked my interest for being based on the 1953 book of the same name by L.P. Hartley, which I read and enjoyed many years ago. However, it was the choice of Michael Crawford in the main role that swayed me. Famed for originating the title role in The Phantom of the Opera, he plays the main character’s older self, acting as narrator and is a constant presence on stage as he looks back into his past.
The story concerns a young boy, Leo Colston, who goes to stay with his richer friend Marcus one summer at the beginning of the twentieth century and becomes caught up in the secret romance blooming between Marcus’ older sister Marian and a local farmer, Ted Burgess. While the young Leo doesn’t always fully understand what is going on, the older Leo knows only too well. Crawford is superb in the role, conveying emotion wonderfully, and while he doesn’t have the vocal power that he used to, he still has a wonderful voice and his frailer tones fit the character.
Directed by Roger Haines, the show relies heavily on the two young boys who play Leo and Marcus, and at the performance I saw, Luka Green and Samuel Menhinick were both superb, particularly Samuel whose character of Marcus was incredibly annoying but very well portrayed. Among the adults, Gemma Sutton and Stuart Ward were very good as Marian and Ted, while Issy Van Randwyck managed to be both charming and ultimately threatening as Marcus and Marian’s mother.
The simple set was evocative, with moving chairs and a piano, beautifully played by Nigel Lilley, the only instrument featured in the score. The music fit the piece beautifully, but I didn’t find it particularly memorable except for the song ‘Butterfly’.
This isn’t your average musical: it’s soft, evocative and subtle, not big and brash and loud like so many of the West End’s other offerings. Yet it’s well worth seeing, moving and quietly devastating.