Reviews

DESMOND J. FLANNERY'S

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THE REVIEWS

"great songs, great story, great music!"

JOHNNY WORTHY, Stage Director/Choreographer [London]

"very impressive new score"

SHERIDAN MORLEY, London Theatre Playbill

"a totally commercial show"

SIMON PHILLIPS, Melbourne Theatre Company

"terrific!"

JOHN FROST, Producer ["The King And I", New York & London]

"a powerful, moving and dramatic piece of music theatre"

MICHAEL SMITH, The Drum Media [Sydney]

"aggressively contemporary and unusual"

RICHARD ANDREWS, TheatreNet

WHEN Charles Dickens wrote A Tale Of Two Cities he wrote perhaps one of the most poignant love stories as full of drama and the foibles of human greed, anger and revenge ever written, second only to Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet. It is this tale of lovers torn apart by the ravening insanity of the French Revolution and the sacrifice to an unattainable love by a disillusioned English barrister that has been taken up as the book for composer Desmond J. Flannery's ambitious foray into the world of musical theatre.

THE jackal of the title is the star-crossed Englishman Sydney Carton, played by Lorenzo Iannotti, who brings just the right mix of self-pity, thwarted passion and sincere dignity to the songs through which he presents his story. Carton's nemesis, the Frenchman Charles Darnay through whom, ironically, Carton discovers that part of himself lost in years of cynicism and for whom, in a way, he sacrifices himself to the guillotine, is played by Luke Maccora, his tone carrying just a hint of a smoky Sinatra. Those of you who have read A Tale Of Two Cities will know that it is the young gamine, Lucie Manette, played here by Zipporah Szalay, whose limpid voice extracts just the right amount of innocence, love and confusion that enraptures the luckless Carton and grateful Darnay.

AROUND this triangle Flannery has created a powerful, moving and dramatic piece of music theatre that, with the right kind of development and production, both musical and theatrical, would rival the incredibly successful Les Miserables, the work to which The Jackal will inevitably be compared. Considering Flannery produced this whole exercise independently, with record producer Neil Osbourne, he's managed to surround himself with some pretty high calibre talent, including Normie Rowe, playing the part of Darnay's mentor Gabelle, Rowe of course having made his name in musical theatre in the Australian production of Les Miserables. Alongside Rowe are actors John Wood as Dr Manette and John Waters as the "Rotter" of the piece, the vindictive Marquis St Evremonde, while another voice from the '60s, Russell Morris, in the part of Gaspard, proves himself more than up to the task, showing a breadth and power in his small part even his biggest pop hits only hinted at.

THERE are always going to be problems with the whole business of writing musical theatre. Apart from having to live up to the preconceptions surrounding a story set in the French Revolution and set up by Les Miserables, Flannery is up against the same problems as the likes of Tim Rice, Andrew Lloyd Webber and anyone else who has tackled the form. Finding the right mix of drama, romance and story-telling so that the whole moves forward in an engaging and intriguing way. I think Flannery manages quite well. Finding the right mix of ballad, anthemic moments, a thematic overture against which to rest the work and the appropriate intercutting of rock, opera, classical and theatre elements in the music is much harder but again, I think it all hangs together pretty well in The Jackal.

THE true test of course is a full stage production, which I believe this extraordinary effort deserves. Only then can the weak spots be truly understood and strengthened. On a recording like this, the only real criticism I can make is of the occasional shortcoming in vocal performance, where for instance, John Waters, replying to Morris' Gaspard in the song "Only A Child", just doesn't really make the notes. Similarly, Iannotti, despite an extraordinary performance overall, seems to be really cutting it close to the edge in the second half of "Light Upon The Hill", when the key changes.

OVERALL however, The Jackal is an impressive work that could really be an exceptional piece of live theatre given the chance and it is to Flannery's credit that he kept the faith for the five years it took to develop it to this point. It's also a testament to the quality of the work that he could attract the names he did to help him realise his dream.

MICHAEL SMITH, Associate Editor, "The Drum Magazine" [Sydney]

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With opening lyrics "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times" and the closing song "A Far, Far Better Thing", this ambitious musical theatre score by Melbourne composer-lyricist Desmond J. Flannery is clearly based on A Tale of Two Cities. Styled as a "contemporary rock opera" and with Madame Defarge at one point declaiming, "Never give a sucker an even break", it is equally clearly a "loose" adaptation of the Dickens classic. But on its own terms, the score is appealing and effective if rather over-endowed with ballads [although this may just be the selection made for the CD, through which Flannery hopes to interest a producer].

Comparisons to Les Miserables may be inevitable, but the work has its own style. Heading the cast, Lorenzo Iannotti sings impressively as Sydney Carton and Glenda Walsh registers strongly as Defarge. Cameo roles by well-knowns John Waters, Russell Morris, John Wood and Normie Rowe give some star backup.

JIM MURPHY, "The Age" Green Guide [Melbourne]

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It was refreshing and rather exciting to open the impressively produced and packaged studio cast concept recording of the new Australian musical The Jackal by Desmond J. Flannery, adapted from Charles Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities.

Given the literary inspiration, I suppose I expected something in the style of Les Mis but this new piece feels far more like the rock operas of the sixties and seventies. Lots of driving guitar work, percussion and rock style vocals. The strong studio cast of 23 includes John Wood, John Waters, Russell Morris, Normie Rowe, Lorenzo Iannotti, Zipporah Szalay and D.J. Foster.

The excellent production standards obvious in the music tracks are accompanied by the glossy, 24 page booklet, complete with full libretto.

This concept CD is available through specialist stores including Discurio, Gaslight [Melbourne], The CD Collector [Sydney] and The Record Market [Brisbane]. It is also on sale at Dress Circle in London and Footlight Records in New York.

NEIL LITCHFIELD, "Stage Whispers" 

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A new theatre production on the horizon is The Jackal. A musical theatre version adapted from Charles Dickens's A Tale of Two Cities.

The Jackal is the story of London lawyer Sydney Carton, an able but idle man of low esteem who is jackal to eminent barrister Stryver. It is set prior to and up to the French Revolution and [among other things] deals with the romance of Frenchman Charles Darnay and Lucie, the daughter of Doctor Manette, a physician who had been confined in the Bastille for many years.

Lorenzo Iannotti sings Sydney Carton, giving strong feeling and emotion to the songs and music. He really brings character to the man who is prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice for the woman he loves. Luke Maccora sings the role of Charles Darnay with good vocal control and his memorable "One Moment in Time" illustrates clearly to the listener his love for Lucie.

Lyrics and music can make or break a musical but this is one instance where they will make The Jackal a world-wide success. A very moving, poignant but powerful story which will become a strong and popular stage production.

PETER KEMP, Musical Stages Online

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