While any show from John Kander and Fred Ebb should earn a crowd, the draw for Adam Lenson’s revival of their 1984 musical is the casting of Caroline O’Connor. ‘Direct from Broadway’, as they say, Anglo-Aussie O’Connor is the real deal: a powerful voice, great acting skills and incredible stage presence. Trust me, don’t miss her.
Both music and lyrics for the show hold their own against more famous works such as Chicago or Cabaret. The plot is simpler – a mother and daughter, Anna and Angel, fighting over the family business of a boardwalk roller-skating hall – wonderfully condensed in Terrence McNally’s book. As the action goes back and forth in time, the estranged women catch up on each other’s lives and revisit their shared history, seeing events from each other’s perspective. The skill in song-writing is astounding: take Angel’s All The Children In A Row, which narrates the search for her father, a death, a birth and hippiedom in one number. Big themes and psychological insight are present and satisfying throughout, covering love, loss and even economics.
Lenson shows admirable confidence in the show’s strengths, never overstating its melancholy overtones and allowing the drama to unfold with a careful eye on nostalgia. The production deserves a bigger home, but the staging and Fabian Aloise’s choreography impress… especially when the roller-skates arrive!
O’Connor is more than capable of carrying the show – she could probably hoist a great deal more. But it should be stressed that she doesn’t have to as a capable team backs her up at every moment. There’s strong work from Stewart Clarke as her husband and Ben Redfern as the childhood sweetheart who waits around to marry her. Co-star Gemma Sutton makes the most of some wonderful numbers and never shies away from her role’s less loveable characteristics. She convinces as a young child, rebellious teenage and angry adult, retaining an equal vulnerability throughout. The Rink is a show full of thrills, emotional and intellectual, and the chance to see a double act this good means you should really get your skates on to see it.
Until 23 June 2018
Photo by Darren Bell