By Jay Darcy
Following on from the success of The Wiz – which bid farewell at the National Lottery’s Big Night of Musicals (BBC One) – Hope Mill Theatre is back with another adaptation of an incredible musical. This time, it’s Passion – one of the late, great Stephen Sondheim’s lesser-known musicals.
A one-act musical, with music and lyrics by Sondheim and a book by James Lapine, the story was adapted from Ettore Scola’s 1981 film Passione d’Amore, and its source material, Iginio Ugo Tarchetti’s 1969 novel ‘Fosca’. Central themes include love, sex, obsession, illness, passion, beauty, power and manipulation. Passion is notable for being one of the few projects that Sondheim himself conceived, along with Sweeney Todd and Road Show.
Set in Risorgimento-era Italy, the plot concerns a young soldier and the changes in him brought about by the obsessive love of Fosca, his Colonel’s homely, ailing cousin – a woman prone to severe melancholy and mania. Exploring the consequences of intense passion and obsessive adoration, Passion is a ravishing and thought-provoking look at the lengths people go to for desire.
The musical stars musical theatre icon Ruthie Henshall (Olivier winner and 5 x nominee) in the lead role. Henshall won the Olivier Award for Best Actress in a Musical for her role as Amalia Balash in the London revival of She Loves Me (1994). Her other Olivier nominated roles are Polly Baker in the original London production of Crazy for You (1993–1994), Roxie Hart in the revival of Chicago (1997–1998) and the title roles in the original productions of Peggy Sue Got Married (2001) and Marguerite (2008). She made her Broadway in 1999, once again starring in Chicago, but this time as Velma Kelly. In 2010, she returned to the Broadway production, once again playing Roxie Hart.
She gained more mainstream notoriety when she competed in I’m A Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here! in 2020, before playing Miranda Evans in long-running soap Doctors (2021). She also presented West End Live in 2021.
The male lead, Giorgio, is played by Dean John-Wilson, who is best-known for originating the role of Aladdin in Disney’s Aladdin on the West End. He also played Run Tha in the acclaimed West End revival of The King and I – a Broadway transfer. Those less familiar with musical theatre might recognise him from The Voice.
The musical is sure to be an intoxicating affair, so give in to the urge and buy yourself a ticket.
Passion runs at Hope Mill Theatre from 5th May until 5th June.
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0161 275 2930 University of Manchester’s Students’ Union, Oxford Rd, Manchester M13 9PR