Only the Brave is the first home-produced full musical from the Wales Millennium Centre with Soho Theatre, Daniel Sparrow Productions & Birdsong Productions. The production is an emotional portrayal of the hardship and suffering felt by the soldiers and their families during the Second World War. The story behind the musical was utterly compelling and is based on a true account, that of Captain John Howard his wife Joy, and his friend and colleague Lieutenant Denholm Brotheridge and wife-to-be Maggie and the company who went with him during June 1944, to capture the famous Pegasus Bridge to allow British forces to cross into France once they had landed.
I have been fortunate enough to visit Normandy a number of times and have seen all of the landing sights and War cemeteries left from the Normandy landings. When visiting these places it can be very emotional but you don’t really feel a connection with the graves or the people who fought and died there. This musical however brings to life the people involved and allows the audience to really feel what it would have been like for the soldiers as they flew over to France to fight the enemy. So much so there were many moments during the musical where I would forget I was in a theatre and instead in a cinema watching a movie.
The characters are wonderfully written and show the hope and anxiety during the time of war. The production had many heart-in-mouth moments and tissues are essential as there are endless eyes being rubbed throughout the auditorium. Especially when one of the soldiers Wally Parr delivered his speech about the Nazi’s simply having ‘Different shirts, same heartbeat underneath,’ Another reason behind the tears flowing is of course in part because of the music composed by the brilliant Matthew Brind, who’s musical ability is second to none and has produced a simply outstanding score, with poignant songs that also have a relevance to the current events in today’s world. Some of the songs included ‘Band of Brothers,’ ‘Regret and Sympathy’ and especially ‘Only The Brave,’ which simply made the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. The mix of the performer’s voices was champagne casting and worked extremely well together.
Portraying war and fighting on stage is never easy and can sometimes look obviously pretend, however, Only The Brave was outstanding. The inclusion of pyrotechnics for the explosions was brilliant and kept the audience on the edge of their seat. The make-up was also very effective with the use of stage blood that gave the audience a further insight into the reality of war.
Only The Brave was a truly prodigious, outstanding musical and a pleasure to watch. The whole team behind Only The Brave have created an audacious and aspiring production with an amazing cast including the fantastic David Thaxton and Caroline Sheen who played their characters really very well. This show is destined to do well and is a must see with a story that is so very important and should always be remembered. The inclusion also of the real War veteran Peter Davies as John Howard (Senior) was a lovely touch and felt very fitting. A really powerful show that should be watched by all and one which I believe is destined for the West End.
Only The Brave is currently showing at the Wales Millennium Centre until Saturday 02 Apr 16 and is simply a must see for all!