„We sing the Murder Ballad’s warning…“, it’s obvious from the beginning that Murder Ballad isn’t a classical musical. When the Narrator sits on stage, her back to the audience while she smokes and music is playing in the background, one questions what is going to happen. When the music starts and the rock voices of Victoria Hamilton-Barritt (Narrator) and Ramin Karimloo dominate the opening number one is curious about what’s happening.
Sara (Natalie McQueen) lives in New York. Her live consists of drinking and partying. When she meets Barkeeper Tom (Ramin Karimloo) there is another thing: sex. The passion and tension between them is nearly visible. They love each other passionately and without limits. But that’s also the way they fight.
When they separate Sara is drinking down her sorrow. During one of her excesses she runs into Michael (Norman Bowman). He is a poet and the two of them are as different as two people can be. However, they fall in love, marry and have a daughter named Francesca Jane, short Franky. Everything seems to be perfect. But it isn’t. Sara is depressed, stressed and finally, on a bad day, calls Tom. Both meet and start a passionate affair. But Michael becomes suspicious. When Tom starts to follow Sara around and provokes a meeting with Michael, Sara wants to end their affair.
All three of them meet in Toms bar. One of them is not going to survive. The next morning Tom’s death is reported in the newspapers: “Unsolved murder at Kings Club…” But who did it? Sara or Michael? Or even somebody else?
The producers created something genius with Murder Ballad in London. Ramin Karimloo as Tom and Kerry Ellis as Sara they two international musical stars play two of the leading roles. Ramin Karimloo known from musicals like Evita, Les Miserables and The Phantom of Opera, is the perfect match for the role of Tom. He dominates especially the rocking parts with his extraordinary voice. But he is also an optical match. When he is on stage without his shirt, starts to get his jeans off and his tattoos shimmer in the light of the stage, he seems like the role has been made for him.
Natalie McQueen, who plays Sara this eve instead of Kerry Ellis, also seems to be a perfect fit for the role. The actress who has appeared previously for example in Wicked, Chess or Spring Awakening, masters the rocking and the more peaceful parts without any problems. The changes between the party girl and the loving mother and wife are flawless. Although we have no direct comparison between McQueen and Ellis, we assume that you aren’t going to miss Kerry Ellis as long as Natalie McQueen is on stage.
Norman Bowman as Michael doesn’t have to hide in comparison to Ramin Karimloo. The actor known from appearances in Les Miserables, Mamma Mia, Cats and Grease is perfect through and through. Especially the duets with Sarah are the moments where he shines bright. The rocking parts are also mastered so good that he can easily keep up with Karimloo.
Outstanding is the performance of Victoria Hamilton-Barritt who appears as Narrator. Her previous theatre credits include Fame, Flashdance and In the Heights. Her wonderfully smoky and not so smooth voice creates a great atmosphere for the theme of the musical. Her acting is outstanding. She seems not only to tell the tale but to steer what’s happening.
Generally speaking the actors create a great atmosphere and dramatic that lasts through the entire play. During the love scenes the air seems to be burn between Karimloo and McQueen. They easily transfer this heat into hate, aggression and fear when the scenes develop further. Light and video instalments which frame the stage, match the vibes on stage. Sara’s and Michael’s daughter Franky is also shown in the videos. Therefore it never seems like they are talking to thin air because there is no child on stage. The only small short coming all over, might be that it is Ellis who’s seen in the videos while McQueen plays the role.
Last but not least the musicians must be named. The four of them play live throughout the entire 90 minutes. This is impressive seeing that even far bigger theatres reduce their costs by working with fewer musicians. The band also appears on stage sometimes. The rest of the time they disappear behind the video walls.
Summarized it can only be said that Murder Ballad is the perfect production. One can only hope Murder Ballad makes its way to German stages in a comparable perfect way.