Over the Rainbow - The Eva Cassidy Story

Written by Brian Langtry, devised by Stephen Leatherland and Brian Langtry
Eureka Theatre Productions
Gala Theatre, Durham, and touring

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If you are a fan of Eva Cassidy's music, you will love this. The music, indeed, is great: such a pity about the bits in between.

Bio-plays, like bio-pics, are only as strong as the story of the person whose biography is being told. Eva Cassidy did not lead the kind of life which lends itself to drama. She had a family and friends who loved her; her talent was recognised locally although not nationally or internationally until after her death; she had no hugely dramatic love affairs; her only contact with drugs was the morphine she took when she was dying of skin cancer. In short, she had a generally happy but regrettably short life, dying at the tragically young age of 33.

Over the Rainbow tells her story, true, but it is a story without drama, conflict or suspense. It follows a set pattern: a song, a brief (or, occasionally, not so brief) scene from her life, starting when she is a young girl just about to go to junior high school, then another song, and so on. Occasionally a song will also form part of the scene. Each scene tells us a little about Ms Cassidy, but the pace of each tends to be very similar.

It is also long. The first half runs almost an hour and a quarter and the second almost an hour and a half, and there were one or two genuine longueurs in the second half.

Therse comments are no reflection on the cast, by the way, who were generally good, with the exception of Carmen Cusack who played Eva. She was excellent: her singing was spot-on and she did the best anyone could with the dialogue.

Treat it as a tribute to Ms Cassidy and you will have an enjoyable, if somewhat long, evening: treat it as a piece of music theatre in the normal meaning of that phrase, and you'll be disappointed.

The show is at the Gala until Saturday and then goes on to Yeovil, Folkeston, Blackburn, Aviemore, York, Hull, Cannock and De Tamboer in the Netherlands.

Reviewer: Peter Lathan

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