The Rise and Fall of Little Voice on tour – review
Jim Cartwright's hit play returns
Award winning comedy-drama The Rise and Fall of Little Voice has won both awards and hearts over the years since it first made its entrance in 1992. This latest incarnation of Jim Cartwright's creation brings the Cinderella-esque story to our stages once again with the promise of razzle-dazzle on its UK tour.
Directed by Bronagh Lagan, this is a production with all the makings of a fairytale: the meek and innocent young woman beaten down by a mother with high aspirations; the wolf in sheep's designer clothing; the promise of fame and fortune at great cost; the finding of a voice and with it, power; the deserved downfall; and the hopeful conclusion.
Indeed, its fairytale parallels means this story is guaranteed entertainment, but there is something about it that falls just short of reaching stardom, thus mirroring its very own plot.
The cast, much like its central character, is small but mighty, and each member has their moment in the spotlight. YouTube sensation and rising star Christina Bianco perfectly embodies LV, having built an identical reputation to her character for being a maven of mimicry in real life. After a number of teasers, we're treated to the full spectacle of her vocal talents at the climax of the show. Her timidity contrasts excellently with the matriarch of the house, and she absolutely gives her most powerful performances in the emotional crescendos of the production.
In contrast, LV's garish, gobby mother Mari Hoff is almost insufferable. Shobna Gulati is every inch the irritating and overbearing whirlwind of an insecure woman adorned in gold lamé. Mari may be mostly unlikeable, but Gulati is still able to evoke sympathy from the audience at the point of her downfall.
Soapstar Ian Kelsey's duplicitous Ray Say is an excellent scoundrel, with his transformation from loveable dreamer to menacing liar evoking gasps aplenty. Fiona Mulvaney's mostly mute and dopey but well-meaning Sadie provides plenty of comic relief, though the jokes at her expense feel a little dated. Mr Boo (William Ilkley), Billy (Akshay Gulati) and Phone Man (James Robert Moore) all bring extra smiles with their roles, too.
Despite its overly leisurely pace at times, this production is lifted by both its comedy and superb vocals. There's some substance to it too; themes of economic hardship and its consequences are peppered throughout, and are ever more resonant in today's turbulent climate. It glitters, but a couple of inelegant moments, including some slightly awkward special effects, take away the extra sparkle that would make it truly shine.
The Rise and Fall of Little Voice, much like its title character, has all the promise of a stellar performance, but doesn't quite hit the high notes. However, with its choice casting, detailed set, and charming plot, not to mention the novelty of Bianco bringing Judy Garland and Marylin Monroe fleetingly to the stage, it's sure to delight audiences. This show may well have a little voice, but it absolutely has a big heart and bags of spirit.