The Lebanese/American poet and writer Khalil Gibran is most well-known for his poetry and prose stories comprising The Prophet published in 1923, such is its popularity and appeal has been translated into over 40 different languages and has never been out of print. I was intrigued to see a new musical based on Gibran’s poetic novel The Broken Wings which was first published in Arabic in 1912 and later adapted as a Lebanese film in 1962. It has all the ingredients necessary for a musical. Set in turn-of-the-century Beirut it is a tragic story of two people who love each other deeply but cannot be together because of culture and tradition.
The musical has been written by duo Nadim Naaman (who also appears in the piece as Gibran) and Dana Al Fardan, directed by Bronagh Lagan with orchestrations by Joe Davison. Broken Wings received a semi-staged performance at the Haymarket theatre in 2018. Director Bronagh Lagan then toured the show and now it returns to London at Charing Cross Theatre, with some of the original cast set in the round with a rotating stage.
The musical begins with a middle-aged Gibran (Nadim Naaman) speaking from his study in 1920s New York, he looks back on his first love, he recalls how his 18-year-old self-returned to Beirut after emigrating to America, fell in love with the daughter of a businessman, but lost her to the nephew of a scheming bishop.
Leading this story is Lucca Chadwick-Patel as the 18-year-old Khalil Gibran and Noah Sinigaglia as Selma, they make a beautiful couple who we know are going to be torn apart by the powerful Bishop Gulos Galib (Johan Munir) who has made an offer Selma’s father (Stephen Rahman-Hughes) can’t refuse and she’s to be married off to his philandering, dilettante nephew, Mansour (Haroun Al Jedda). Gibran and Selma’s intense love runs true, and inspires monumental sacrifice and loss for both.
The music, while stirring and romantic, is also rather slow. This is unlike any other ‘musical’ I’ve seen, in that there are no upbeat numbers. It is ballad, after ballad, after ballad, I feel there could have been more unique sounds or rhythms of the Middle East woven into the score. “Spirit of the Earth” stood out for me with its melody, its build, and a beautifully stunning performance from Soophia Foroughi as Mother that I could watch over and over.
It is deep and philosophical and there is still a small part of me that thinks this story would be better adapted into a play rather than a musical, but you cannot fault the performances all the cast deserve high praise for delivering a beautiful love story. “The most beautiful instinct inside us all. To love who we love”.
Grab a ticket for this new blossoming musical while you can as it’s interesting to see new pieces and support new work filled with romance and hope. It is currently running until 26th March at The Charing Cross Theatre.