Ginger Hibiscus | Ginger Hibiscus | REVIEW: World Premiere of Seasons of Love
Ginger Hibiscus | REVIEW: World Premiere of Seasons of Love
Ginger Hibiscus | REVIEW: World Premiere of Seasons of Love
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04 Mar REVIEW: World Premiere of Seasons of Love

It’s not often that as a reviewer, you get to see a show that’s absolutely unlike anything you’ve ever seen before. And it’s even more unusual to see something so new and innovative, and to love it unequivocally, despite its imperfections. That’s what happened with Seasons of Love. Defying categorisation, it can only be described as an extravaganza of dance and music, truly a celebration of love, from the team behind the 2012 Olympics closing ceremony.

Forget what anyone ever told you about a show that centres around singing and dancing being a musical. More like the resplendent lovechild of a pop concert and a dance show, Seasons is wonderfully indefinable – singers, dancers, band and visuals working relentlessly to upstage eachother, and resulting in a show that’s quite literally a feast for your eyes, as it’s impossible to decide which bit to look at for fear of missing something else.

Six featured singers wear costumes (but fortunately not headgear) that wouldn’t be out of place in the Hunger Games’ Tribute Parade, and the visuals from CS Media are striking, filling the cavernous space that is the Theatre Royal Drury Lane stage, even if they do feel a bit less revolutionary than they did in 2012. But the big deal in all of this is the dancing. From the marvellous mind of choreographer Gareth Walker, Seasons of Love is all about the dance. Influenced by a range of styles, from ballet to Latin to ballroom, with an infusion of contemporary Irish dance, the group of well-drilled and phenomenally talented dancers are the real stars of the show – something that’s sadly not at all evident in the marketing.

Through dance, Seasons looks at a series of moments in relationships, from the thrill of a new flame and the frisson wedding day excitement, through to coping long-distance, and the sadness of separation. Gorgeously expressive, with such variety in emotion and style there are inevitably songs you’ll like and others you won’t, but it’s such an exciting showcase that anyone with even a passing interest in dance will find something in there that they love. For me, it’s the exquisite winter ballet sequence. But with a broader appeal than more traditional dance shows, it really has the capacity to get a whole new demographic excited about dance.

Widening the appeal, to some, is the vocalist casting decisions. It grabs headline, but the casting of a celebrity, particularly someone whose heyday was in the ‘90s and whose only memorable career move since has been in reigniting that ‘90s flame, is usually a failsafe signal (to me) to avoid at all costs. My inner cynic comes out to play when I see a name for the sake of a name, and after the disaster that was Marti Pellow in Evita, hopes weren’t particularly high for Seasons of Love, which leads with the casting of Claire Richards from Steps, Mark Read from A1 and the inimitable Chesney Hawkes.

The less said about Chesney Hawkes and his white suit, the better, but in Claire Richards and Mark Read, two incredibly talented singers enjoy a moment to shine- even if the sound mix is set firmly to “gig” mode, with the music up high and the vocals down low. It’s loud, chest-thumpingly loud, and the actual words are nigh on impossible to make out (remember what I said about it not being like a musical?), but then it’s not a story being told, and what there is to be told is done through the medium of dance rather than song.

Conceptually, the show struggles slightly. It’s strange that Seasons, without any explanation, only covers three quarters of the available seasons, leaving audience members a little lost on how far through the show it is; with two seasons in act 1, it seems a fair assumption that act 2 will mirror it. But when “autumn” suddenly reappears, it’s not clear what’s happening – is it an encore? Are we cycling through the seasons again? Or is this a “summer” that just looks a lot like autumn? The bewildered audience were unsure whether to clap or not, an awkward situation when you want to show your enthusiasm, but not clap all the way through the second act.

Seasons of Love embraces the spectacular, and presents a sensory overload of the most indulgent kind; watching it is quite a lot like sitting down to dinner expecting a mediocre pizza and instead being presented with confit duck, followed by a gigantic steak, and topped off with a chocolate soufflé. Rich, delicious and intense, it’s gorgeously surprising and impossible to choose which bit you liked the best. And what if you don’t like duck? Well, there’s more than enough dessert to go round.

Image: CS Media

Star Rating

Ginger Hibiscus don’t like using stars as a headline; we think they’re too reductionist, and that decision-making based on stars misses the point of a review. Just as you wouldn’t judge a personality using a five-point scale, theatre is multi-dimensional. So have a read, and then look at the stars afterwards.
Okay, fine, but how many stars do you give it? Click here