In this brand new musical, an ambitious collaboration between the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and the American Music Theatre Project at Northwestern University in Chicago, a host of different characters are introduced through the title object: The Book of Names.
Each of the characters has a dream of a new life in America and backstories range from families seeking to be reunited, women looking to find their place in the roaring twenties, young couples seeking love and fortune in a new country and mothers travelling to the hope of a better life for themselves and their children. The characters all congregate together on Ellis Island awaiting official paperwork which will take them to their new lives and the land of the American Dream.
Through song, dance and live music the audience get to know each character and learn what it is they are striving for and there is no shortage of talent on stage. The cast members can clearly sing and have pulled together an interesting story based around the Ellis Island roll call, a strong basis for a musical. The accents, however, leave much to be desired, with some characters slipping into three or four different voices throughout their scenes which does not help with the authenticity of the stories.
The occasional dance scenes keep the audience engaged but why two Greek women perform what is more akin to an Irish folk dance remains unexplained. And it is this lack of believability which prevents this musical from reaching the heights of previous fringe productions from the much esteemed Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.
Despite this, The Book of Names has an intriguing title, an excellent synopsis and a promising cast all adding up to the potential to be a great musical.