BKLYN — The Musical gives itself a headache for no reason. What does ‘BKLYN’ mean? Perhaps it’s a random jumble of letters caused by a muffin landing on the keyboard. A punter who sees the title once and later looks it up online is unlikely to recall the precise order of the letters, and his search will probably fail. And he’ll have trouble discussing the show with his friends because he won’t know how ‘BKLYN’ is pronounced. It turns out that the show’s heroine is called Brooklyn, and the writers decided to capitalise her name and extract three of its letters. Sensible theatre-makers don’t create problems like this for themselves.
The story begins in the 1960s when an American drifter visits Paris, ‘with nothing but a guitar and a dream’. He meets a waitress at a famous landmark — ‘a café right in the heart of the Eiffel Tower’, as the narrator puzzlingly describes it — and they start an affair. A daughter is born but the relationship dies. Dad returns to America. Mum hangs herself. And so the French orphan, herself a talented musician, must track down her father.
That’s a strong narrative hook. The next bit is even better. She half-remembers a tune that her dad used to sing to her in the nursery. ‘I will find my father,’ she vows, ‘and he will finish that lullaby.’ What a fantastic idea. The power of music to reunite a sundered family and restore order to the universe. Has it been used before? Yes. In Casablanca. ‘Play it again, Sam.’
Sadly the show exploits its promising materials ineffectively. The latter stages of the tale are confusing, and the viewer gets very little help from the production. No money has been spent on costumes or sets.