'A Tale of Two Cities' review or 'What the Dickens?!'

'A Tale of Two Cities', based on the novel by Charles Dickens
Charing Cross Theatre, Thursday 19th April 2012
Written for Time Out

Dickens's bicentenary has probably helped extend Paul Nicholas' solid production of this new musical version of 'A Tale of Two Cities' beyond its initial fringe run. Jonathan Ansell (an 'X-Factor' graduate) plays Charles Darnay, a noble aristocrat caught up in the French Revolution. Doe-eyed and gentle-voiced, Ansell performs David Pomeranz's honeyed love songs with silky confidence.

But it's predictable, even if you don't know the story. Although we get flashes of thunderous revolution, the show lacks the fiery passion of, say, 'Les Misérables'. The production feels a touch old-fashioned, as the lights shift with every key change and smoke billows across the stage.

It's in the cheekier songs that it captures Dickens's spark and depth. 'Tea', which sees reformed lawyer Carton (Michael Howe) despairingly down his drinks, is delightfully playful. And Howe displays impressive range, as Carton blossoms from a burnt out grump to a tender, damn fine chap.