For those unfamiliar, The Time Traveller’s Wife is Audrey Niffenegger’s enduringly popular 2003 novel which has already been adapted into a film and a TV series – so a stage show seems the next logical progression. This production stars David Hunter (Kinky Boots, Waitress) as time traveller Henry and Joanna Woodward (Pretty Woman) as wife Clare; over the course of two and a half hours we follow their non-linear story through the 1980s and 1990s. With music written by Joss Stone and Eurythmics’ Dave Stewart, and a book by Lauren Gunderson, we were expecting something rather special.
The result, however, doesn’t entirely live up to expectations – this new musical is rather a mixed bag. First of all, this is very much a show of two halves – the first act is distinctly unimpressive, with pedestrian music and an unnecessary amount of exposition. All the best songs, funniest jokes and most impressive set-pieces occur after the interval – they’re worth waiting for, but it’s disappointing that we have to endure over an hour of fairly underwhelming theatre before we really get to the good bits.
We were also somewhat disappointed with the music – given the impressive resumés of Joss Stone and Dave Stewart, the songs themselves fall short of expectations. There are a couple of cute duets in act one, and act two’s “I’m In Control”, a soaring ballad delivered brilliantly by Joanna Woodward, really raises the roof. Most of the remaining numbers are pleasant but forgettable – we’re in no rush to listen to these songs over and over, which is a shame.
The stage effects are also of variable quality – there’s a genuinely impressive sequence which opens act two, with clever use of projections and screens to create an illusion of travelling through time; additionally, a handful of the moments where the time traveller suddenly appears or disappears are truly delightful. On other occasions it’s incredibly obvious how the effect has been achieved – the set ups for some of these are almost comically overt – with a few simply happening off stage.
In terms of the performances these are pretty solid overall – our leading pair are both strong singers and fine comic actors, landing the jokes well. They’re ably supported by the ensemble cast and there are some nicely choreographed sequences. It’s all very cheesy and shallow, though – we never really scratch beneath the surface of any of our characters, which makes investing in the central relationship a bit of a stretch at times.
We should stress that there’s nothing majorly wrong with The Time Traveller’s Wife – it provides a perfectly enjoyable evening at the theatre. It’s just a shame that it falls short of expectations – given the star talent associated with this production, we were hoping for something rather more impressive than what we actually saw. We were anticipating an exciting new sci fi show with killer songs, and we left the Apollo Theatre feeling as though we’d watched a fairly pedestrian cheesy romcom. It’s sweet, but shallow – a pleasant evening out, but nothing more.
GAY TIMES gives The Time Traveller’s Wife – 3/5
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