Imagine This

This show has now closed, click here for a listing of current and future London shows

Previewed 4 November 2008, Opened 19 November 2008, Closed 20 December 2008 at the New London Theatre in London

Poland, 1942. A group of actors in the Warsaw Ghetto stage plays to inspire hope and optimism within their community. However, with rumours of a Final Solution in the air, their play merges with the reality they are trying to escape, and a dramatic love story unfolds.

Imagine This is a story about ordinary people - brothers, sisters, mothers and fathers - facing impossible choices and making heroic decisions. An inspirational story that follows the lives of ordinary people trapped in the Warsaw Ghetto, Imagine This the Musical is a story of hope; where laughter rises above the tears; where freedom is found through imagination; where love knows no boundaries.

The cast for this prodcution of Imagine This in London features Peter Polycarpou as 'Daniel' along with Leila Benn-Harris as 'Rebecca', Simon Gleeson as 'Adam', Sevan Stephan as 'Max' and Gary Milner as 'Otto'. It has music by Shuki Levy, lyrics by David Goldsmit and book by Glenn Berenbeim. The prodution is directed by Timothy Sheader with choreography by Liam Steel by set designs by Eugene Lee and costume designs by Ann Hould-Ward.

"Glenn Berenbeim's book includes some rather good Jewish jokes but it's not just ridiculously far-fetched, it's also sabotaged by its structure. The opening scene looks back to the summer of 1939 before Hitler invaded and the Jews were forced into the ghetto. Here Daniel Warshowsky, leader of an acting company, insists that through his art his starving audience can at least be fed with hope, and his show, Masada, must go on. So proceeds the lengthy musical-within-a-musical: the 2,000-year-old story of a siege during which nearly 1,000 people committed suicide rather than be captured by the Romans. The resonance couldn't be clearer. Like those trapped in Masada, these Jews must now choose between going to Treblinka or dying in freedom... The trouble is, while the Masada sections provide an excuse for some dancing by a saucy Salome and her troupe, and for several camply choreographed scenes of soldiers wielding stakes, they also swamp the main story. Moreover, Shuki Levy's pappy, unmemorable score neither rises to the challenge of the heart-rending material nor rings out the difference between the two story lines. Still, Tim Sheader's production is performed with passion and sung with strength." The Mail on Sunday

"The trouble with this musical is not that it is badly done - it isn't, particularly, and there are some good performances and some reasonable songs - it is that the whole concept is peculiarly rickety... That said, there are some good ideas in Timothy Sheader's staging... Peter Polycarpou puts up a strong performance as Daniel and Leila Benn Harris and Simon Gleeson are in good voice as the lovers. The show has an atmospheric set (Eugene Lee), a soaring anthem, Les Mis-style, at its heart and is well executed by the cast. But none of this can disguise the gap between a good intention and a good show." The Financial Times

"As shows go, it is all deeply disappointing. The music, for instance, seems to have been chosen from the book of cliches. The styles range, quite amazingly at times, from Sigmund Romberg through some poor imitations of Sondheim and even a whiff of Lloyd Webber. Many of the songs are, admittedly, quite tuneful. But anyone searching for originality, even something to whistle on the way home, would have been sorely disappointed... Despite this, most of [the cast] are in good voice, particularly Peter Polycarpou who plays Daniel, the strong man of the actors' group. He has a fine stage presence and a well-rounded voice. Leila Benn Harris, as Rebecca, sings melodiously and with a fine tone, and is pleasing on the eye. She also manages to carry the drama of her role well without falling into the temptation of going over the top. But in the end, Imagine This fails, drowned in a sea of schmaltz." The Daily Express

"Its director Timothy Sheader and its excellent cast have given it a heart and a soul. Amid the ruins of the ghetto, Peter Polycarpou's Daniel is staging a musical about the siege of Masada in AD70... The action shifts between ancient Rome and Warsaw with the parallels making for an all but seamless narrative. Simon Gleeson is an exciting discovery as Adam, and in his Silva mode he reminded me very much of Russell Crowe. As his love interest, Leila Benn Harris makes a beguiling Rebecca... There are some beautiful songs - such as 'The Last Days of Summer' and, of course, 'Imagine This'." The Sunday Telegraph

"Imagine this? That's the title of a show that involves Jewish actors performing an inspiring play in the Warsaw Ghetto; but it also comes across as a mix of command and plea. And, sorry, no can do... I won't tell you how this turns out, only that it comes with a lot of stuff about dark eyes burning through me and how deep eyes somehow knew me. The lyricist, David Goldsmith, may have the chutzpah to rhyme nature with nomenclature, but he can be pretty slushy too. Similarly, Shuki Levy's score can handle the sad or upbeat, notably in a soaring title song that claims that only imagination can free the oppressed. But it never has the minor-key harshness the situation demands." The Times

Imagine This in London previewed from 4 November 2008, opened on 19 November 2008 and closed on 20 December 2008