I wish I could call Murder Ballad a killer of a show -- it would look good on the posters -- but neither is it a show I have to bury a knife in, either. It's a bold, though not exactly brilliant, chamber rock musical, a territory long mined by shows from American Idiot to Spring Awakening, by way of Rent; but in the age of Hamilton, it also suddenly feels slightly dated and ersatz.
That's no fault of a rocking cast, in every sense, that comprises four of our brightest leading players. No one belts quite like Ramin Karimloo or Kerry Ellis, and both look good in their underwear, too. They play former lovers who rekindle their passion and can't keep their hands off each other (unluckily for them) or their clothes on (happily for us). Meanwhile, the wonderful Norman Bowman, who is now partnered with Ellis's Sara with whom he has a young child, looks on, wounded and driven to violence.
It's not much of a plot, but Sam Yates's visually arresting production keeps our attention, and the cast sing their hearts out, kept on the move on a set that has two revolves and a set of busy screens that sometimes provide an over-obvious visual commentary to complement Victoria Hamilton-Barritt's aural one as the narrator.
The star power may draw young audiences, and they won't be disappointed. Older audiences may crave greater nourishment.
What the Press Said...
"Although the characters are not particularly interesting and the show is full of cliche, there is much to hold the attention, including Jordan’s often flinty lyrics, a sung-through score that is always moving the action forward."
Lyn Gardner for The Guardian
External links to full reviews from popular press