top of page

Review: Rebecca (Charing Cross Theatre)

Review by Daz Gale


This week sees a musical that has long been at the top of theatre lovers lists finally make its long-awaited London premiere as Rebecca moves in to the perhaps surprising choice of Charing Cross Theatre for its English language premiere. With the show winning acclaim and a devoted fanbase worldwide from its previous productions, expectations were high to see if this could add to the show’s legacy fittingly, Was the bar set too high though and how would this translate to a brand new audience who might not otherwise be familiar with the show?

Based on the 1938 novel by Daphne du Maurier, the musical adaptation of Rebecca premiered in Vienna in 2006. It has since been staged around the world with productions in Finland, Japan and Korea to name but a few. Rebecca tells the story of Maxim de Winter who falls in love again following the death of his first wife Rebecca. but With housekeeper Mrs Danvers not taking to the new Mrs de Winter (credited only as I) and secrets from the past rising to the surface including what happened to his first wife, is there any way this could have a happy ending?

By now, you may have noticed the star rating at the top of this review and think you might know where this review is heading. However, Rebecca is a show with a lot going for it so let’s begin with them before I delve into the elements that did not work as well.

If there is one reason to see Rebecca, it is for its magnificent score. Absolutely stunning in every way, the music soars and pushes the capabilities of what the small Charing Cross Theatre can achieve, thanks to its inclusion of a brand-new orchestra pit. The music and orchestrations by Sylvester Levay really did take my breath away evoking comparisons to classics such as The Phantom of the Opera with its sweeping melodies. Some of the lyrics feel like they have not been translated as well which can let them down somewhat, clumsily trying to shoehorn words into the songs in a way that feels unnatural. However, for the most part these songs are impressive enough.

The other strong quality Rebecca has going for it is its utterly sensational cast. Having recently alternated the role of Bonnie in Bonnie & Clyde, Lauren Jones gets an opportunity to lead a production full time with her mesmerising take on “I”. Showing to everyone what a star she really is, she completely shines on the stage, showcasing her many strengths. Most impressive is her incredible vocal range, wowing on all of her musical numbers.

Richard Carson gives a complicated take on Maxim de Winter as he channels the complexities of the character while the mysteries surrounding him are uncovered. With a commanding stage presence, he is a marvel to watch. Kara Lane blows the audience away with her incredible singing voice as Mrs Danvers, particularly on the multiple iterations of the title number ‘Rebecca’. She delivers a creepy and intense performance which at times can be genuinely terrifying though slightly suffers at the hands of some of the creative choices which diminishes the power this masterclass performance should hold.

The entire cast work their hardest, doing their best to make up for the shows shortcomings with former Dear Evan Hansen star David Breeds criminally underused but fantastic in his small turn as Ben and Sarah Harlington enjoying a few highlights of her own as Beatrice. Having such a fantastic cast at the shows disposal makes the more questionable aspects all the more frustrating as there was so much more that could be done with their talents.

While the story of Rebecca has proven to be captivating in its many former guises, something seems to have been lost in translation in this production… perhaps literally. Michael Kunze’s original book clearly has promise but this seems to have been undone somewhat by the English book adaptation, often feeling at odds with the story that is being told. The drama never quite lands with the impact it should with certain lines feeling inauthentic when spoken and even leading to some cringeworthy moments, This is a problem also featured in the English lyrics, with the painful ‘I’ll Scratch Your Back’ feeling like it should have been scratched from the show altogether.

Another real problem with this production is the perplexing direction with many choices on the stage feeling rather jarring to watch. This isn’t helped by the clunky staging and clunsy scene transitions with multiple occurrences of a character singing a quiet song in front of a closed curtain – while seemingly a bunch of tradespeople hammer on the stage behind it loudly. Another problematic choice comes midway through act 2 when the two main characters have a scene towards the back of the audience – which barely anybody registered thanks to not being able to see or hear it. It’s incredibly frustrating moments like that that make this such a missed opportunity with a seemingly lack of understanding of what would work in this setting.

Using Charing Cross Theatre for this show was an unconventional choice, but one I was happy to entertain. After all, that theatre have proven time and time again what a versatile space they are and just what they can do with a bit of imagination – a prime example of this was the sensational Allegiance from earlier this year. In the programme, Michael Kunze and Sylvester Levay state they chose this space as it is in line with the humility of the piece. That may be admirable in itself, but it proves a real problem as it feels completely at odds with the score of the show. Grand and opulent, these sounds were completely juxtaposed with the visuals on the stage with a video design that cheapened the aesthetic and a set design that really let the whole thing down. While it might be hard to feature the grand staircase other productions of Rebecca have been known for, there was a feeling that perhaps more could have been done and not all of the artistic visions in this production complemented each other.

I must admit I got swept up in the hype over the Rebecca announcement. Having not been lucky enough to see one of the International productions myself, I eagerly anticipated seeing the show for myself and expected to be blown away. While this show admittedly has several incredible elements going for it, most notably its rousing score, sadly this production has far too many issues that contravene its strengths. As I left the theatre, I considered whether this show had more positive or negative attributes going for it and regrettably came to the conclusion there is more of the latter.

Is it fair to chastise a show for being in the wrong theatre? Probably not, but in choosing this theatre, they made some bold choices that just didn’t work. I believe there was a way to make this work in this setting in a far more satisfying manner with maybe too many conflicting ideas exploding to create a disappointing mess. Of course, this is a show that isn’t without its strengths and is worth seeing for the amazing performances from its cast, especially Lauren Jones, alone. As always, please remember this is just one person’s opinion. I don’t claim to be the oracle of theatre, not am I so arrogant I think my opinion is fact. This was how I personally felt watching the performance – the person next to me may have had a completely different experience and that is what makes theatre so beautiful. I would encourage everybody to go and make up their own minds with this one. However, for me, it failed to live up to its promise.

Rebecca plays at Charing Cross Theatre until 18th November. Tickets from

Photos by Mark Senior



bottom of page