The Whisper House is a 2009 musical with music and lyrics by Duncan Sheik, writer of the multi-award winning rock musical Spring Awakening. Never performed before in the UK, this felt like it could be an exciting possibility for Andrew Lloyd Webber’s new venue. The bar has been set high with recent jazz musical The Wild Party and the raucous studio hit This Joint is Jumpin’. Sadly, this ghost story felt more soulless than spooky. It was more of a stifled yawn than a sneaky whisper. In spite of a great cast, clever use of lighting and an evocative set, it’s a musical with a dreary book and songs that seem to merge into one anther.
In wartime America, pre-pubescent Christopher is sent to his aunt’s eerie old lighthouse following the death of his father and his mother’s subsequent admission to a psychiatric hospital. Aunt Lily is a mournful woman, encumbered by a club foot and haunted by a past event. Oh, there’s also two convenient singing ghosts who waft about the stage making dramatic hand movements around people’s faces and pulling quaint horror film faces. Yes, it’s as bad as it sounds. There’s also a flimsy plot involving a Japanese man who works for her and the xenophobia of the times. There are storms, of course, and water swishing about. It’s a weak storyline and an inadequate framework for the equally dull songs. There’s something strangely hypnotic about the whole thing and not in a good way. I came away unsure how long I’d been in the theatre, whether there was a storyline and without any ability to recall the songs.
If you’re a die-hard musical theatre fan and love Spring Awakening then you might enjoy this as a rare chance to see a musical that unsurprisingly failed to hit London before. You’ll definitely enjoy the cast and their fine voices. My general advice, though, would be hollered loudly rather than whispered: stay away.
Whisper House plays at The Other Palace until 27th May 2017