Thanks to Lin-Manuel Miranda, Margarita ‘Peggy’ Schuyler has become something of a cult figure in musical theatre circles; “Angelica, Eliza… And Peggy” introduces the three sisters, with Peggy pouting her way across the stage and not being keen about the impending revolution. Napier University Drama Society want to turn that on its head, however, and flesh out this little-seen character into an independent 18th century woman. Eilidh Keddie, Hanna Olsson and Laura Thom’s show is based at Greenside @ Infirmary Street for the rest of this week.
In this new musical, Peggy is a daddy’s girl through and through – so much so that she takes an incredibly active interest in her father’s work, and even writes some essays for him that make it through Congress. Her new husband Stephen (who’s also her cousin), grows tired of this as he believes a woman’s place is in the home – raising children and taking care of the family, not trying to meddle in politics. The only person who seems to understand her is her new brother-in-law, Alexander Hamilton; they frequently exchange letters and he backs her up in arguments. But life takes its toll and the family faces more than its fair share of trial & tragedy. Will Peggy’s voice ever be heard?
The influence of Hamilton on this production also extends to costume design, with familiar colours and styles creeping into the wardrobes of crossover characters (the sisters’ dresses are an iconic visual). I suppose the temptation to try and marry up the musical genres between this and Hamilton was quite strong, but it’s probably for the best that they went for the more straightforward option of keys & guitar accompanying singing (rather than rapping). It Ain’t A Sin If It’s Your Cousin is definitely the most memorable number, with the 18th century views on relationships proving to be rather amusing.
It’s a shame that the rest of the show isn’t quite sure of the tone it wishes to take – serious drama, comedy drama, or all out bawdy comedy? We also lose a sense of time and place later on; to begin with it’s quite meticulous about stating the years, but not so much towards the end, and it also could be a little clearer where everyone is living (if they’re writing to each other regularly). They definitely get a bit bogged down in reciting each other’s letters, where maybe a song or different kind of monologue might do the trick – as well as provide a little variety.
Having sections of expressive dance (choreographed by Blythe Montgomery) is an interesting idea, however they come slightly out of the blue, so it isn’t always clear what they mean to represent – though they are skilfully executed. Some of the cast seemed to struggle with a bit of confidence in singing and projecting their voices to the back of the room, however Iain Leggat is solid as Alexander Hamilton, and Elissa Dun leads wonderfully as Peggy – she truly has a beautiful voice. This show has bags of potential, and it’s interesting to see a fresh take on the Hamilton story.
My verdict? A show that’s full of potential, but needs a bit of work – Elissa Dun is a wonderful leading lady.
…and Peggy runs at Greenside @ Infirmary Street (Forest Theatre) until 18 August 2018 (6.25pm, 55 min). Tickets are available online or from the box office.