Grim: A New Musical (Charing Cross Theatre)
The Angel of Death tries her hand at being human in this dark new musical
Tapping in to the eternal teen fascination with death, afterlife and other worlds in general, this new musical characterises Death as a young woman – Grim - who insinuates herself into a secondary school, bringing her own chilling brand of trouble to anyone she is drawn to.
Grim explains that she's simply curious about life as a human, and decides a classroom is the place to find out more about the emotions she cannot yet feel. Her attempts to blend in are unsuccessful, not least because everyone else is in regulation skirts and ties, while Grim drifts through school in a long black dress and swishing cloak.
Her apparent lack of interest quickly ensnares the affections of the school heart-throb, Cupid, rousing the fury of the other girls in a battle that becomes truly deadly.
Roseanna Christoforou is well cast as the enigmatic, cool-headed Grim. She looks beautiful, and soars through her musical numbers.
Grim learns about friendship from Amelia, played with verve by Georgi Mottram. She has one of the best songs in "I Wished for Someone Like You", but also helps Grim fight off the mean girls, led by Kathryn Rutherford's Cherry, who loathe Grim's otherness. Rutherford has a strong stage presence and a powerful voice that reflects her Queen Bee status among the other pupils, and she soon suspects – quite rightly – that Grim is responsible for the sudden spate of deaths in the community.
The most high profile of these is poor Cupid who finds eternal love, but ends up paying a very heavy price for it. Anthony Matteo's Cupid is a thoroughly nice boy who seems oblivious to the adoration of his classmates, and his joy when Grim accepts an invitation to the dance is expressed in the tender number "She Said Yes".
The energetic young cast are directed by Adam Wollerton, and the piece is cleverly plotted by writer Fiona O'Malley, who links Grim's persecution to the witch trials of the sixteenth century. In her day job, O'Malley does PR for the Miss World contest, so writing musicals is an impressive sideline. However, Grim would benefit from further script editing to the dialogue, and some of the links between scenes are a little choppy.
There's solid strength in the musical direction by composer Joseph Alexander. The rousing company numbers like "Because I am Evil" and "The Strongest Power in Life" include some beautiful harmonies.
Choreography is by Adam Jay-Price and Sam Lathwood, and make-up designer Sophie Venes has clearly enjoyed creating a deathly pallor among the cast.
Lighting designer Jack Weir creates an otherworldly atmosphere even before the show begins, and set designer Anna Driftmier's chalk-painted gates suggest not just school, but the entrance to the afterlife.
There's plenty of imagination and talent in Grim, but as a professional production it still has the feel of a work in progress.