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July 7, 2008 | by  | in Theatre |
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Rome – The Musical

I once had a drama teacher who despised musical theatre. A great man who appreciated all of theatre’s subtleties, I was always confused by his outright disdain for the genre. Musicals are just supposed to be fun, aren’t they? Who cares if they’re silly, aren’t they supposed to be entertainment? Sadly, Rome – The Musical, playing at Circa, has shown me exactly what Mr Chivers meant. Potentially epic in scope and lavish in execution, this show was lacking in both respects and did absolutely nothing for me.

The tales of the classical age are romantic and powerful. This is why they lend themselves so well to Shakespearean tragedy, and even Hollywood films – they are exciting and evoke strong and passionate emotions. Why, then, does Rome deny us these? Caesar, the mighty Roman Emperor stabbed in the back at the foot of the Roman senate, died a silly death to a whiny Brutus. Et tu, Brute, (You too, Brutus) he sings, even though Brutus is the only conspirator present.

The show has the potential for some incredible stage machinery and set design. I would have loved some curtains to pull back, revealing a lavish Roman palace full of togas and other epic period costumes. Instead, we were given a tubby Caesar wearing some sort of psychedelic jacket – cool in its own right, but ultimately undermining our ability to feel a part of the story. The music was okay; only once or twice did I detect someone trying to slip in an extra syllable.

Sadly, Mr Chivers was right all along. Musicals are silly. Were Rome to take itself a bit more seriously, no, a lot more seriously, it may have been worth seeing.

Rome – The Musical
Book and lyrics by Paul Jenden
Music by Gareth Farr
Directed by Paul Jenden
At Circa
June 21 – July 26

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