The Thorn Birds - The Musical

By Jeremy Miles

Colleen McCullough has made made millions from her epic romantic novel The Thorn Birds. 

Most famously, in the 1980s, it was turned into one of the most widely watched TV mini series ever.  It’s been good to her. Why on earth she would want to do this to it is a complete mystery.

 For The Thorn Birds - A Musical seems a horribly misjudged production. It only hangs together because its central story, about a priest torn between love for a young girl and his dedication to the Church, remains so unshakably powerful.

There are good performances too in this lavishly staged heroic tale of tragedy and shame spanning the lives of three generations of the Cleary family as they struggle to survive in the harsh Australian outback. 

But with music by opera star Gloria Bruni that fails to find any significant narrative focus and a book and lyrics by McCullough herself that at times beggars belief, this show seems doomed to failure.

The music veers from the solemnity of the Catholic Mass to the raucous beer-swilling atmosphere of a good old Aussie knees-up. From echoes of screeching rock posturing to shades of classical opera. The dots are often intriguing and complex but they just don’t add up.  

Over long, over indulgent and over-the-top, there are too many moments when it feels like a spoof. You half expect French and Saunders to come galumphing across the stage.

*The Thorn Birds - A Musical plays Lighthouse in Poole until Saturday April 18.

© Jeremy Miles 2022