I really like the Charing Cross Theatre, especially on a school night like tonight; it is so nice to be able to just hop upstairs to the station for my train home. Better still, their programming is usually reliable and a safe bet for an enjoyable evening. Broken Wings is another to add to the list of good nights here. The show has come back to London in its new and full form after having been workshopped and semi-staged across the world, and gives us story-within-a-story about young, forbidden love in fin de siècle Lebanon.
Adapted from the book of the same name, Broken Wings follows the story of 18 year old Khalil Gibran (Lucca Chadwick-Patel) as told by himself in his 40s (played by the writer of this adaptation, Nadim Naaman). The tale itself is a classic love story written in beautiful prose – credit to both Gibran and Naaman here – and skillfully adapted into a musical. I didn’t get the sense that the story had been jammed into this format, but gently molded into shape as it is. A stunning set by Gregor Donnelly and some memorable performances by the cast really sold the event as a whole and transported us straight into Beirut.
While the musical genre felt fine, I did wonder at some of the artistic choices when it came to the music. The songs and background music (by Dana Al Fardan and Nadim Naaman) were obviously well crafted, sensitive, and enjoyable, especially when you add in a cracking band and phenomenal singing. But it didn’t feel new or exciting and missed the possibilities that entirely embracing music from Lebanon might have offered: the few parts where the region’s musical flavour was present were by far the better. There were also an awful lot of ballads, which had too similar a feel to be distinguishable. Frankly, after a few of them I was a little bored. I wonder if losing a couple of them might be worthwhile now that the show has the depth of its full staging and the presence of some great performers who bring real impact to spoken moments of feeling.
Overall this is an enjoyable execution of a good adaptation of a classic love story. It has all the ingredients of a West End great, but something about it still needs to simmer. Particularly outstanding, though, were the performances from the cast who all deserve praise for their commitment to the characters and the story. One final shoutout to the multi-talented Nadim Naaman who wrote the book, the music and narrated the story as Gibran, with his beautiful voice leaving me tingling.
Written by: Nadin Naaman
Music and Lyrics by: Dana Al Fardan and Nadim Naaman
Directed by: Bronagh Lagan
Set & Costume by: Gregor Donnelly
Musical Direction by: Erika Gundesen
Produced by: Katy Lipson for Aria Entertainment
Broken Wings plays at Charing Cross Theatre until 26 March. Further information and bookings via the below link.