CHARING CROSS THEATRE
(formerly the New Players Theatre)
THE BRAILLE LEGACY (musical)
Ends 24th June 2017.
Audio Described performance: 29th May 2017.
“The Braille Legacy” tells the thrilling, true, inspirational and epic story of
Louis Braille, a young blind boy who wanted the same chance in life as those who
see and ended up improving the lives of millions of blind people around the
In Paris in the 19th century, blind people were victims of profound
discrimination. Louis Braille, a bright young mind with a mad dream, arrives at
the Royal Institute of Blind Youth, searching for the same chance as everyone
else: to be free and independent. But he soon discovers that people and things
aren’t always what they first seem. By sheer determination and courage he
stumbles upon something revolutionary: a simple idea, a genius invention, a
legacy. Two hundred years ago, Louis Braille changed the world by inventing the
tactile system of communication, the Braille alphabet, liberating the “People of
the Night” and introducing literacy, knowledge and culture to a people who were
otherwise trapped. It was their journey into the light.
The tale of a revolution and an heroic fight for independence, with the themes
of difference, freedom, hope and love and the triumph of human values over
This world première will star
Jérôme Pradon, whose West End credits include the UK premiere of the musical
“Women On The Verge Of A Nervous Breakdown”, Guillaume in “Martin Guerre”, The
Man in “Whistle Down the Wind”, Aragorn in “The Lord of the Rings” musical,
Chris in “Miss Saigon” and Javert in “Les Misérables” in London and Marius in
Paris, as well as Judas in the Emmy-winning video of Jesus Christ Superstar.
Joining him are:
Jason Broderick (“Godspell” UK tour, “Anna Nicole - The Opera” Royal Opera
House); Tate-Eliot Drew (“My Lands Shore” Ye Olde Rose N Crown Theatre); Will
Haswell (“Jersey Boys” West End, Pinocchio in ‘Shrek the Musical” UK tour);
Lottie Henshall (“Doctors” BBC1); Sarah-Marie Maxwell (“She Loves Me” Menier
Chocolate Factory, “Top Hat” UK tour); Matthew McDonald (“Death Takes a Holiday”
Charing Cross Theatre, “Allegro” Southwark Playhouse); Kate Milner-Evans
(“Showboat” West End, Carlotta in “The Phantom of the Opera”); Janet Mooney
(West End includes “Les Miserables” and “Love Never Dies”); Ceili O’Connor
(“Grand Hotel” Southwark Playhouse, “Evita” UK tour); Michael Remick (West End
includes “Dirty Dancing” and “The Sound of Music”); Ashley Stillburn (Corrado in
“Death Takes A Holiday” Charing Cross Theatre, “The Phantom of the Opera” and
“Les Miserables” West End); Jack Wolfe (is making his professional stage debut
as Louis Braille); and a child cast featuring Guillermo Bedward, Thomas Brown,
Tallulah Byrne, Beau Cripps, Ilan Galkoff, Honey Harrison-Maw, Eliz Hassan,
Megan Haynes, Zachary Loonie, Mimi Slinger, Ophir Fifi Tal, William Thompson.
“The Braille Legacy” has an original French Book and Lyrics by Sébastien
Lancrenon, Music by Jean-Baptiste Saudray, with an English translation by Ranjit
Bolt. Music Supervision and Orchestrations are by Simon Lee.
Director: Thom Southerland
Music Supervision and Orchestrations: Simon Lee
Set Designer: Tim Shortall
Costume Designer: Jonathan Lipman
Sound Designer: Andrew Johnson
Casting: Stephen Crockett at Grindrod Casting and Jo Hawes for children’s
Music Preparation: Simone Manfredini
Producers: The Braille Legacy Ltd by arrangement with Colbert Entertainment Ltd
Associate Producer: Kayla Hain
General Management: Charing Cross Theatre Productions Ltd. Steven M. Levy
Photo credit: Scott Rylander.
At the Palais des Sports, Paris, in September 1980, a mere 500,000 people were
lucky enough to witness the birth of a show that went on to become a theatrical
legend. Last night, history repeated itself - on a somewhat smaller scale – as
276 theatregoers (and two gorgeous Labrador guide-dogs) had what may well prove
to be a very similar experience.
In 1820s Paris, blind children have only Doctor Pignier (Jerome Pradon) and his
team at the “Royal Institute for Blind Youth” to speak for and educate them.
Even as the Government withdraw funding (producing an ironic snort from a
section of the press night audience), Captain Charles Barbier de la Serre
(Michael Remick) attempts to advocate for them and presents his “night reading”
system of raised dots on paper as an alternative to the difficult raised letters
currently in use. Young pupil Louis Braille (Jack Wolfe) simplifies the system,
and changes the lives of the blind community forever.
This theatrical debut should change the life of young Mr Wolfe forever, too. His
first professional engagement is breathtakingly accomplished, his musical
theatre skills making feather-lightness of a heavy role. With Pradon’s
paternalism adding to the warmth and Remick’s military bearing preventing the
whole collapsing into schmaltz, it’s a fine trio at the show’s heart.
There’s also strong work from Celi O’Connor as the institute’s matron, Jason
Broderick as Gabriel (enemy then friend of Braille), and Lottie Henshall as
Rose, the Captain’s daughter. The “Coupvray Group” of children – notably
Tallulah Byrne as Lepage - add much to the action, particularly when director
Thom Southerland showers them with broken hope in a simple yet heart-breaking
Indeed, he makes thorough and consistent use of Tim Shortall’s two-tier
revolving school set and passerelle. Tim Lutkin’s lighting keeps the school in
shadow, only emerging into the light as it dawns for the community, and Jonathan
Lipman’s moving idea of blindfolds – which Southerland builds symbolically on,
heighten the tale.
Jean-Baptiste Saudray’s music is simply beautiful. The haunting “In These Words
I See” and “The Gift Is In Your Hands” as fine a pair of tunes as ever heard in
musical theatre. Sebastien Lancrenon’s book may wind things up a little too
quickly, but the fact the tale is economically told means there is space for
development – and there is enormous credit to be given for the unsensationalised
incorporation of one horrifying twist. Irritatingly, Ranjit Bolt’s lyric
translation is far too reliant on the ‘rhyming dictionary,’ and it is here, and
only here, that the show requires a level of remedial work.
Like the “Les Misérables” of 1980, “The Braille Legacy” has a French creative
team telling an important French story in a totally individual way. Also like
the “Les Misérables” of 1980, it is perhaps not quite the ‘finished product.’
And yet, and yet, the whole is enthralling, exciting and refreshingly different
that it deserves not only the work it needs, but audience numbers to match.
Most important, the show must have a “children’s edition” immediately, both one
for ‘full production’ and also simply for ‘choir and narrator,’ for this is an
absolute must for schools to perform.
An inspiring story, in a profoundly moving musical version, universal acclaim
for this should be assured.
Four stars – and it will be five in the future, the monkey is certain.