Review: Charming new musical with strong songs on Stratford stage

Connor Clemons as Joe and Vanessa Gravestock as Maggie
Connor Clemons as Joe and Vanessa Gravestock as Maggie

Nick Le Mesurier reviews The Emigrant by Amanda Laidler at the Bear Pit Theatre, Stratford

It’s marvellous what can be done with a bare stage, a table or two and a few chairs. Oh, and a cast of young aspiring actors under the careful tutelage of a good director. Plus an attractive heroine who finds love in a far-away continent. Plus a catchy new score and a clean, direct script. Put all that together and you’ve got the makings of one of the hardest theatrical forms of all to pull off: an original musical.

Young Rogues and Vagabonds are a company of aspiring actors that are not afraid to go for the big challenges. The Emigrant tells the tale, based on the director Amanda Laidler’s own family history, of a young woman, Maggie Nichol (Vanessa Gravestock), who travels by ship from remote rural Scotland to the bustling metropolis of Toronto in the 1920s. She suffers an unsatisfactory job as a governess, but falls in with a troupe of actors who ease her loneliness by taking her in as one of their own. Soon she falls for the lovable rogue, Joe Brennan (Connor Clemens) and…well, you can guess what happens. Things look very bad for Maggie for a while. But she is lucky: on the voyage over to Canada she met a charming, rich businessman, Edward Cameron (Jay Hunt) who became smitten by her. Edward turns out to be what heroes are supposed to be but often aren’t, a decent chap, and all ends well. As we follow Maggie in this charming rags-to-riches tale we are treated to a host of good songs penned by Amy Cate Walsh.

The stage musical is a siren on whose rocks many have perished. Young Rogues and Vagabonds are a hearty crew and stand a good chance of success, wherever the winds of fortune may blow them.

* The Emigrant runs until November 11. Call 01789 403416 to book.