REVIEW: Calon Lân the Musical, Swansea Grand Theatre, until July 6.
It sings to the soul . . .
Calon Lân the Musical has enough energy to vibrate your spinal column.
And enough passion to stir emotions in the faithless.
It’s been a labour of love for a number of years for writer/composer Mal Pope.
But it was worth the wait, on the evidence of Saturday’s ‘gala opening night’ at Swansea’s Grand Theatre.
Economically-constructed around one multi-purpose ‘industrial revolution’ set, Calon Lân tells the story of Evan Roberts, who, in 1904 in Loughor, started the great Welsh Revival, an electrifying escalation of religious fervour.
The story is well known. But, the telling of it, in Calon Lân, is neatly done, being framed by the memories of the journalist WT Stead – an editor who interviewed Roberts but later met an untimely end aboard The Titanic in 1912.
A story, set more than 100 years ago and covering a revival which only lasted 18 months, has plenty of contemporary spin – fake news, hero worship, the cult of personality, the desire to torch our heroes, industrial strife . . .
They all sit alongside the timeless themes of passion, love, family, jealousy, sacrifice and betrayal.
The music alternates between foot-stompers which will rock you to the core, to anthems which include references to our classic hymns, to sweet melodies.
It’s a musical canvas which Mal Pope fills with drama and colour.
James Ifan is an energetic and conflicted Evan Roberts, Swansea favourite Claire Hammacott is pure West End class in the role of his mother Hannah, Delme Thomas shines as the Loughor preacher’s nemesis. Rev Peter Price, and Cameron Blakely, the owner of one of the best voices in theatre, holds the whole thing together as WT Stead.
It’s a show that steps into the arena of musical theatre with confidence, but it does contain a couple of false steps, including one where the ‘guys in shawls’ introduce a touch too much comedy, temporarily breaking a carefully-crafted dramatic illusion.
The gala opening night wasn’t without its technical hitches, either.
At the start of the second half, the sound system collapsed.
The cavalry arrived in the shape of show director Maxine Evans, who raced to the front of the auditorium to fill the gap.
She relieved the tension, with her own ‘comedy three minutes’ – “Does anyone know any jokes?” . . . “Where are you all from?”
“Do you like the top?” she asked the gala night audience. “It was £34.99 reduced to £12.99.”
One audience member shouted, “You should be on the stage”, forgetting that Maxine is an actor of note, virtually unrecognisable from her role in the TV hit Stella.
The tech glitch was a blip . . .
This is a show that lifts the spirit.
Praise the Lord!
Join the congregation and go and see it!
Calon Lân the Musical runs until July 6.