Henry (David Hunter) has been visiting Clare (Joanna Woodward) since she was a child. Not intentionally at first, nor in a weird way. The meadow behind her home is something of a safe space his body is flung to during his frequent, uncontrollable bouts of time travel. The two eventually fall in love as grown-ups with the twist that many of their earlier memories are yet to play out for Henry, whose time travel disrupts chronology. This makes it all quite chicken and egg as to how the two connected. It plays into a tantalising fantasy of getting to meet your loved ones at different times in their lives.
Joanna Woodward as Clare, David Hunter as Henry, and company in The Time Traveller's Wife the Musical. Photo: Johan Persson
The problem is, under Bill Buckhurst’s direction, Henry and Clare are too cheery and happy-go-lucky for the major issue of him vanishing and reappearing to carry any weight. Woodward brings strong vocals to the role, but she’s let down by a one-dimensional part. Hunter’s Henry is just nice – surely so much disruption to your life would elicit a little frustration? Tim Mahendran and Hiba Elchikhe, as the couple’s friends Gomez and Charisse, bring great energy, but they’re little more than comedy sidekicks. Ava Critchell delivers a mature press night performance as Young Clare and – spoiler! – the couple’s daughter Alba.
Stone and Stewart’s songs, which feature additional music by Nick Finlow and lyrics by Kait Kerrigan, are largely lilting ballads, most of which pedal the same upbeat energy. Family number Make it New, with its refrain of ‘beautiful rainbows are always in my eyes’, is especially trite. Raunchy number A Woman’s Intuition, where Gomez encourages Henry to lie to Clare about getting a vasectomy, is crass. Finale number Story of Love is so generic it could have been shoehorned into pretty much any romantic musical’s happy ending. Shelley Maxwell’s choreography is frustratingly clunky for the ensemble numbers, too.
David Hunter as Henry in The Time Traveller's Wife the Musical. Photo: Johan Persson
Cutting through the sugary sentimentality, though, are two powerful numbers: I See Her, sung by Hunter with his troubled dad (Ross Dawes), is appropriately moving, as is Clare’s song with her younger self, One Day.
What thrills in an otherwise clichéd adaptation is Chris Fisher’s illusions, which see Henry vanish, shrink, and reappear before our eyes. Complementing the trickery are Andzej Goulding’s video animations, which in act two opener ‘entr’acte’ sketch out a space-themed world around the time-hopping hero with the help of designer Anna Fleischle’s illustrations. Fleischle’s agile set allows for swift movement between the story’s non-chronological events, with rotating pillars whisking us between a library, a restaurant and the streets of Chicago among several other locations.
Magic can’t save this show from tumbling down a theatrical black hole, though. A nip back in time to the planning board might.
|The Time Traveller’s Wife, Apollo Theatre review
|Apollo Theatre, 31 Shaftesbury Avenue, London, W1D 7ES | MAP
|Piccadilly Circus (underground)
07 Oct 23 – 30 Mar 24, 7:30 PM – 10:00 PM
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