The Fields of Ambrosia

Previewed 22 January 1996, Opened 31 January 1996, Closed 10 February 1996 at the Aldwych Theatre in London

The new musical The Fields of Ambrosia in London - following a sell-out American run.

The time is 1918 and the place is rural Louisiana in the American deep South. Jonas is a former con-man and carnival hustler whose world is suddenly turned upside-down when he falls head-over-heels for the most alluring and beautiful woman he has ever met.

The only problem is that he is currently employed by the State as its one and only executioner and she is the prisoner who is destined to be his next 'client'. What follows is a poignant, funny and surprising musical love story unlike anything you have ever seen.

This brand new musical comes to London's West End following an acclaimed sell-out run in the USA.

The cast features Joel Higgins as 'Jonas Candide' and Christine Andreas as 'Gretchen Herzallerliebst', with Michael Fenton Stevens as 'Doc', Mark Heenehan as 'Malcolm Piquant', Marc Joseph as 'Jimmy Crawford' and Roger Leach as 'Warden Brodsky' along with David Anthony, Cliff Brayshaw, Ryk Burnett, Siobhan Coebly, Lindsey Dawson, Morgan Deare, Nicholas Denney, Catherine Digges, Susie Fenwick, Peter Gallagher, Chris Andrew Mellon, Michael Neilson, Amanda Noar, Kevin Rooney, Karen Skinns and Henry Webster. Directed by Gregory S Hurst with choreography and musical staging by David Toguri, sets by Deborah Jasien, costumes by Deirdre Clancy, lighting by Nick Richings and sound by Rick Clarke. Music by Martin Silvestri and book and lyrics by Joel Higgins, adapted from an original screenplay by Garrie Bateson.

"Call it good taste, call it the right tone, call it a basic moral sense: there is something missing in Joel Higgins and Martin Silvestri's tale of the genial executioner who, having amiably returned a hundred males to their Maker, falls for his first female victim. Consider what happens when Jonas, played by Higgins himself, tries to delay her death by hiding Old Reliable, as he calls his chair. Suspicious guards set on the assembled convicts, viciously beating and throttling and gouging out their eyes while the executioner has gleeful sex with Christine Andreas's Gretchen on a platform above. Or consider the scene in which the local mortician, a forlorn wimp whose smell of formaldehyde puts off women, keeps watch while scores of prisoners are off copulating with six exhausted whores. Grabbed and raped by homosexual convicts, he launches into a soaring sob-song that begins 'if it ain't one thing it's another'. How on earth to make such stuff palatable? Higgins and Silvestri's solution is to give their show a folksy, jokey, aw-shucks feeling, supposedly in keeping with the period, which is 1918... Oddly, there is genuine talent on display. Silvestri can turn a breezy country tune. Higgins the librettist may have his limitations, but Higgins the actor has lots of laid-back assurance, and Andreas has a fine, pure voice." The Times

"My taste buds are still recovering from an all-singing, all-dancing Death Row in the kitsch new American musical The Fields of Ambrosia, a prime piece of vanity theatre from leading man/ lyricist/ author Joel Higgins. The story of a travelling executioner's torrid affair with his first female victim is related in relentlessly folksy style, punctuated by the immortal refrain: "The fields of ambrosia, where everyone knows ya." Even the heroine's nearly nude scene in the condemned cell and an (unseen) homosexual rape in the back of a wagon don't make two and a half interminable hours of titter-making dross pass quickly. One to file under turkey leftovers" The Daily Express

"Since this show - which comes to the West End from a triumphant run in New Jersey - is a rock musical, you will hardly be surprised to hear that it is terrible. Truly it presents itself like a sitting duck waiting to be shot at; but one hardly wants to blame this particular show - one wants to blame the genre. Excellence in rock musicals is rare to the point of being inappropriate. Banality is the norm: banality of rhythm, rhyme, feeling, characterisation, story. .. The rock in The Fields of Ambrosia is especially stale; and yet the music is by no means the worst thing about it. This show is silly, dull, and cheap-minded... This show is the brainchild of Martin Sylvestri, who wrote the music, and Joel Higgins, who not only wrote its book and lyrics but also plays Jonas. They adapted it from a 1970 Hollywood film version of the tale of Jimmy Thompson, who really was the sole travelling executioner in the state of Mississippi, early in this century. In their version there is not one large-spirited or decent character or moment. It tries one cynical ploy after another. The whorehouse scene; the randy prisoners' scene; the scene in which the prisoners are brutally beaten by their guards at the command of their cynical warden while Jonas and Gretchen are bonking in her cell upstairs... At every moment, The Fields of Ambrosia tries to titillate you with the sins it also tries to condemn. Perhaps fortunately, it is too maladroit to succeed." The Financial Times

The Fields of Ambrosia in London at the Aldwych Theatre previewed from 22 January 1996, opened on 31 January 1996 and closed on 10 February 1996