Above The Stag (venue)
11 May 2019 (released)
11 May 2019
This new production of Glenn Chandler's previously successful musical brings us an imaginative recreation of the lives of two historical, Victorian figures, William Frederick Park (Fanny) and Ernest Boulton (Stella). Fanny and Stella performed as women on the amateur London stage but had an equally active life walking off stage and onto the streets of the West End , still dressed as women, on the lookout for men. The play brings to life the very different personalities of Fanny and Stella and, through a combination of engaging music and witty lyrics presents their individual characters, their relationship to each other and to their two significant lovers, Lord Arthur Clinton and Louis Charles Hurt, both of whom get entangled in the eventual dire situation of Fanny and Stella as they are accused of criminal activity and put on trial. The story traces the emotional dynamics and evolution of the relationship between the four principal characters, leading to and after the trial.
Chandler's decision to dramatize this as a musical works effectively on a few levels. The exploration, in musical form, of the very difficult situation faced by the two men, succeeds in retaining some of the pain and pathos of the situation while lifting the feeling and meaning of the events in a way that appears to have captured the original tone and spirit of Fanny and Stella - of perhaps a boldness, daring and defiant optimism set as a protective bulwark against the harsh and sometimes vicious cruelty of the world.
The combination of underlying dramatic tension and lighthearted external defiance is superbly delivered by a uniformly outstanding cast who individualize personalities and bring them to life. This is an enjoyable and thought-provoking production.