Written by David Evans and Winnie Holzman, Birds of Paradise is a sharp, witty interpretation of Chekov's The Seagull brought to us from one half of the team (Winnie Holzman) that thrust the juggernaut of a musical, Wicked, on the world. Quite the pedigree for this UK premiere to live up to.
Set in the Harbour Island Community Centre, we join the town's amateur company of actors preparing to rehearse a home-written production of 'Diva by December', a clearly plagiarised version of 'My Fair Lady' whilst waiting for the arrival of former resident and now Broadway star, Lawrence Woods. Asked for his professional opinion, Lawrence sees through 'Diva' for the plagiarism that it is and is presented with an alternative script – Sea Gull – by fellow company member Homer, which he agrees to direct.
Birds of Paradise brings us well-crafted songs and clever dialogue that should engage us but the characters and their relationships are not as well rounded as the songs and so ultimately, whilst we are thoroughly entertained throughout, I don't think we really care about the outcome. And there for me is where this show fails. The cast is generally excellent with particularly strong performances from Lottie Johnson as Julia, James Kenneth Haughan as Homer, Stuart Scott (brilliant!) as Dave and Stephanie Lysé as Stella but despite this, it's difficult to really invest in any of the characters.
Nonetheless, this is a very enjoyable production, brought to life by an energetic company in one of my favourite fringe venues in London.