Lightning Road is a new musical which opened last night in St. Paul’s Church, Covent Garden. It is the auteur-like creation of Flora Leo, who wrote the production’s book, music and lyrics and who sat joyfully among her fellow musicians, providing musical direction and accompaniment on keyboards alongside the musical ensemble.

The musical tells the story of Emmeline, who is in despair after her mother’s death, desertion by her sister and emotional desertion by her father who drowns his sorrow in drink. One night, Emmeline leaves her house in despair during a storm, is struck by lightning and then everything changes. Her counterpart is Cole, also with a troubled past, lost, drifting and running away to keep his past at bay and who happens to be there when she is struck.

The setting chosen is the closing period of the second World War and all is done in appropriate period costume. The plot involves a love story, a story of struggle, redemption, loss and salvation. Quite a lot is packed into the plot, but the story moves along well and these plot lines provide the pretext for quite a few musical numbers – and the musical numbers carry them superbly.

The music and its performance were the highlight of the evening, the elements that kept the perceptibly high level of audience engagement. The excellent church acoustics suit the production, and the challenge of the venue for the direction and stage management were effectively met. It’s encouraging to see so many talented young performers who can act as well as sing. The story is a dramatic one which is about people finding themselves, overcoming fears, learning to trust and engage with others and the music and lyrics consistently convey the modulations and qualities of those sentiments This was a pleasure to watch.

Photocredit: Polly Bycroft-Brown