Reviewed by Jan Mellor
Here I was again – my 3rd visit to the Everyman Theatre to see the amazing Everyman Company (EvCompany) in as many months and was very excited to see their take on the famous musical film that was infamous for having two very famous and traditionally ‘unmusical’ film stars portraying the main roles – namely Clint Eastwood and Lee Marvin. I was intrigued as to what the company would do with this musical and as the stage opened with the cast wearing ‘onesie’ pyjamas (reminiscent of the underwear worn in the late 19th century) I knew there was something unique and thrilling to commence. The cast joined an exquisite Mexican played by the talented Marc Elliott as he was passed flowers for a grave. They assembled singing ‘Wandering Star’ and were led wonderfully throughout by the lead Ben Rumson (Patrick Brennan). I was totally hooked and I was not alone.
The theatre gives the audience a 360◦ perspective of the performance and this enabled the audience, to capture the entire dance scenes as they should be seen. From the atmospheric opening number, the cast are at the funeral of a friend when Jenny (Ben’s 18-year-old only child) finds gold in the coffin and Ben claims the land as his. From this we are carried into the marvellous ‘Paint your Wagon’ and the whole theatre was transported to the small mid-west homestead of the late 19th century. The company have an amazing skill of transforming a small wooden floor into a variety of concepts and this alone is mesmerising.
The characters were believable and intoxicated us with – Seduction – Julio and Jenny’s first meeting and the romantic ‘I talk to the trees’- Ambiance – with the haunting ‘They call the wind Mariah’-Sentiment – with Ben’s song to his late wife ‘Eliza’ (tears were welling up by now!) – Funky – with Jenny and the company’s washing line routine ‘How can I wait – Giddy, with Ben’s wedding day and Euphoric – with the cast anticipating ‘A coach coming in’. By the end of the first act I was filled to the brim with joy. It was delightful.
The second act started very comically with the coach load of ‘dames’ arriving to ‘Jake’s Palace’. The entire cast danced exotically in any way they knew to ‘A can of peas’ – fantastic! The audience were howling with laughter. The costumes were fantastic! How clever! Staying in the bar scene, with the goldmine drying up and the townsfolk leaving, those who remained were fearful for the cold of winter as it is depicted through Julio’s lovely song ‘Autumn. Jenny and Julio have been separated for a year now, and since being sent to San Francisco Jenny now returns being able to read and write. She returns to Rumson to be with her beloved father and Julio and Ben realises that his roaming days are over and sings the warming lullaby ‘Take the wheels off the wagon’ an analogy that I think a lot of us can relate to.
The finale shows the loving couple staying in Rumson to become farmers and Ben back on the road in search of his fortune. The cast return with their lanterns and onesies and the enchanting reprise of ‘Wondering Star’. Wow! What an absolute masterpiece!
The director Gemma Bodinetz wanted this performance to be distinctly different to the film incarnation and she certainly achieved this. I am besotted with this company and cannot wait to see another production. To be truthful I have already booked to see Paint Your Wagon again as I loved it so much and I am sure you will too!
I loved it – much more than the film. It was delivered in an inspirational and unique way and every single performer was a star. Emily Hughes as Jennifer Rumson is, as always, faultless and Ben Rumson was a genius throughout. The choreography was amazing, the orchestra played wonderfully, the simplistic set was designed very cleverly by the designers Molly Lacey Davies and Jocelyn Meall who have an immense talent of making minimalistic props work so well! The cast were energetic, talented and passionate. You must go and see this tremendous version of this great musical whilst you can.
A spectacular performance!
Tickets cost from £10 to £40 (booking fees may apply).
Paint Your Wagon is at the Everyman Theatre in Liverpool from 3 March to 14 July 2018, for more information or to book tickets visit www.everymanplayhouse.com or call the box office on 0151 709 4776.
Liverpool Everyman. 5-11 Hope Street, Liverpool, L1 9BH | 0151 709 4776