Music by Andrew Lloyd Webber
Book & Lyrics by Ben Elton
Directed by Ben Elton
Playing through November 1st at the Royal Alexandra Theatre.
Tickets @

Reviewed by Robin Breon

If you arrive early enough at the theatre, you may hear the pre-show lecture that the producers provide for The Boys in the Photograph so that a North American audience might better be able to understand the militant struggle that engulfed Northern Ireland for better part of the last century and involved a bitter class conflict that is here neatly distilled as a war between two religions -- Catholic and Protestant.

And it's a good thing too, because despite the well intentioned historical overview provided by the pre-show lecture; the musical will almost certainly leave audiences with a quizzical, "Huh?"

Case in point: the creators of The Boys in the Photograph (Andrew Lloyd Webber and Ben Elton) apparently wanted to remount this metaphorical soccer match in Canada because they felt its previous incarnation, entitled The Beautiful Game (which played London's West End in 2000), ended on too disheartening a note. To wit: a number of the boys in the photograph (including John, the main protagonist) found themselves dissolved out of the picture because they ended up dead -- fade to black-out, the end.

After much soul searching and eraser chewing the creators came up with a new improved "happy" ending that has our hero, John, returning to the arms of his beloved Mary and their new born child while at the same time renouncing his politics. So what was this all about?

The problem here is that John and Mary have no differences to overcome. They are both Catholic, both working class and although she is a peace activist and he is a militant they both want the same thing: a united, peaceful Ireland. The reason Romeo and Juliet works as well as it does (at least the last time I looked) is because the two lovers are from two different households with a huge, ancient grudge that separates and in the end devours them.

The other structural problem, allied to the music, is that apparently Mr. Webber preferred to write various combinations of duets to advance the story line. It soon becomes boring and repetitive.

The saddest part of the whole venture is that the best part of the show is the uplifting energy that pours off the stage from a young and extremely talented cast of actor/singer/dancers who deserve a better vehicle than this to display their prodigious and bountiful talents.

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