Picture: Pamela Raith

The Book Thief

Belgrade Theatre Coventry


I love a good musical and this is a good musical. The storytelling is first class; fair zipping along in the powerful arms, and voice, of Death (Obima Ugoala) who manages a central and exacting role with energy and humour.

The story of The Book Thief, you may know from the best-selling novel by Marcus Zuzak, and the film starring Geoffrey Rush, Add to that amazing music, with a live band in the pit, from Disney favourite writers, Elyssa Samsel and Kate Anderson, then add, a lovely surprise, stunning choreography and dance from the whole company.

My favourite, among so much to praise, the fight scene; elegant, believable and add puppetry for that final embellishment.

The story so far; 1940 and Germany is at war. At 33, Himmel Street, young Liesel (variously Tilly-Rae Bayer, Mollie Casserley, Erini Lousko) has lost her brother and her mother (Katy Clayton) has left her in the care of Rosa (Mina Anwar) and Hans Huberman (Jack Lord), whose testy relationship during the privations of war provide a good deal of humour.

But in this home, against the horrors of Nazi Germany, kindness finds a home too. Liesel has stolen a book though she cannot read, about gravedigging. Hans helps her to read it. She finds a good friend in Rudy (variously Thommy Bailey Vine, Preston Cropp, Oliver Gordon).

Max Vandenburg (Daniel Krikler), young Jewish boxer, and son of Hans’ friend from whom he has inherited an accordion, is outrunning the Gestapo and arrives at no 33 for sanctuary. From his basement hiding place, his kindness guides Liesel’s literary education and love of books.

There is much to enjoy. Throughout, the threads about colours, stars, trees and leaves, as well as Death, weaves in and out of the storyline. I loved Rosa’s vituperative song, Dreadful, about the accordion – because I play one too… She hates it and the smell of his tobacco – but in his absence at the front it is all she craves. Late to the party is another winning song, and I heard a voice in the row behind me at half-time break into Mel Brooks’ The Producers’ winner Springtime for Hitler. To be honest, I thought of it too but only for a split second… this is tip top and deserves a good look.

Directed by Lotte Wakeham with a book by writers Jodi Picoult and Timothy Allen McDonald, The Book Thief runs to 16-09-23

Jane Howard


Index page Belgrade Reviews A-Z Reviews by Theatre