Sunday, June 08, 2008

The Hired Man

Photo/Tristram Kenton

Whatever Melvin Bragg's lost in his condensed adaptation of his epic The Hired Man has been partially made up for thanks to Howard Goodall's music, a lively bunch of chorus numbers and operatically light chamber music solos that nonetheless pack a punch. But director Daniel Buckroyd is all business, and substitutes intimacy for tableaux, ending up with more of a revue than a musical. In truth, the rapid pace of Act II, which jumps from Katie Howell's airy "You'll Never See The Sun" to the talented Richard Colvin's moral aria, "What Would You Say To Your Son?" and from David Stothard's unyielding, unionizing "Men of Stone," to, of course, the ensemble's "War." It's not smooth enough to excuse the melodrama of a collapsed coal mine or a sudden illness, but the finale's resolution of all those counter-melodies shows that for all its ups and downs, all that hard work is ultimately worth it.

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