'Alchemy' Testimonials

NP 6"The German premiere of "Alchemy" offered great emotions and spine-tingling effects..." (Petra Steps, Reichenbacher Zeitung)

"A grand night out..." (Simon Lewis, The Echo)

"The opening night of 'Alchemy''s run at the Jermyn Street Theatre was a resounding success, with the audience making it clear that they had been totally won over by the classy and professional presentation of Clive Nolan's excellent musical. [...] These Nolan gems will one day claim their rightful place in UK's musical hall of fame. It's just a matter of time." (Odette Swann, Classic Rock Magazine)

"A tremendous little show here, laden with potential showstoppers and clamouring for deserved recognition and accolades." (Simon Lewis, The Echo)

"A delightful rock musical exceeding the level of any contemporary piece known in this genre." (Artur Chachlowski, MLWZ)


"The Fire and the Quest 2": A review by Magdalena Grabias (Classic Rock Society)

“The Fire and the Quest 2”
1-2 September 2017
Cheltenham Playhouse
Music and Lyrics by Clive Nolan
Directed by Ian Baldwin

Al rev 2017 1On the first weekend of September the Cheltenham Playhouse saw the return of the composer, lyricist, and symphonic rock legend Clive Nolan (Arena, Pendragon) and his Caamora Theatre Company. The event, to celebrate the Nolan musicals, consisted of three shows: “Alchemy”, an acoustic concert “Beyond the Veil”, and the premiere of Nolan's most recent piece, “King’s Ransom”.

After its concert premiere in Poland in 2013, “Alchemy” debuted half a year later as a theatre production at the Cheltenham Playhouse, and subsequently was shaped into a cleverly concise production suitable for both big and small venues by the talented Cheltenham director Ian Baldwin. The show was performed over a week in the London off-West End in 2014. The 2017 version turned out to be a revived version freshened by the presence of a few new cast members.

The plot unwinds within the realm of the “Alchemy universe”. Set in the Victorian era, the musical presents a tale of adventure, love and mystery with elements of the ghostly and the supernatural. Professor Samuel King (Clive Nolan) embarks on a quest in search of artefacts left behind by the alchemist, Thomas Anzeray (Chris Lewis), which in the hands of King's overambitious and power-greedy adversary, Lord Henry Jagman (played by the excellent and ever-entertaining Andy Sears), might lead to disastrous consequences resulting in distorting the balance between the living and the dead.

Inspiring Musical Premiere: A Review by Petra Steps

reich rev 2300 visitors experienced a thrilling performance in the Neuberinhaus on Saturday – the German premiere of "Alchemy" offered great emotions and spine-tingling effects...

REICHENBACH – The musicians, singers and actors of the German premiere and Germany's only performance of the musical "Alchemy" by Clive Nolan delivered a magnificent artistic performance night in front of 300 guests at the Neuberinhaus on Saturday. They impressed the audience with two hours full of music, pictures and emotions. Only the volume was considered to be a bit too high by some.

This concerned mainly the very dynamic titles, while during the soulful ballads some would have liked to take out their lighters. However, this is not permitted at the Reichenbach temple of Muses due to fire safety reasons.

At the beginning of the partially staged performance, event organizer Uwe Treitinger had "thanked" the non-existing sponsors and absent cultural attachés. His sometimes spectacular activities are still an insiders' tip. His genuine gratitude, however, went to the Neuberinhaus and manager Jens Pfretzschner, who "supports whatever nonsense I come up with", to the technicians, the volunteers or to Christa Treitinger who, at 83 years, was at the entrance to support her son.

'Alchemy' in the Off-West End: A Review by Odette Swann

DSC 8781 140812 WebThe opening night of 'Alchemy''s run at the Jermyn Street Theatre was a resounding success, with the audience making it clear that they had been totally won over by the classy and professional presentation of Clive Nolan's excellent musical. Everything about the production tonight was high-quality, from the singing and acting of the protagonists to Ian Baldwin's expert direction and the lavish and imaginative sets and costume prepared by Natalie Barnett and her fellow designers. There are a lot of people behind the scenes who have worked hard to ensure that the presentation loses nothing in comparison with the bigger productions that are regularly staged only a short distance away, and they can all be proud of themselves - this delightful package punches well above its weight.

It was great to see the musical being played out in its natural habitat - the theatre - with the cast rising to the occasion to put in memorable performances. The atmosphere was gripping from that very first gun-shot, and the cast, who are possibly not all used to singing and acting to the accompaniment of a backing track, did an excellent job. It goes without saying that the performers assembled here sing well live, but their acting too was of a very high calibre: Andy Sears was magnificent and totally captivating as the villainous Lord Henry Jagman, while Agnieszka Swita's portrayal of the character of the tragic Amelia was superbly sensitive, combining bitterness, tenderness, resolve, and finally redemption in equal measures as the story demanded, all augmented by her beautiful singing. Matthew Ronchetti's Gardelle made a sympathetic love interest for her, and their interplay during Amelia's death scene (Clive is rather good at writing these, isn't he?) brought, I suspect, many a tear to the eye.

'Alchemy' in the Off-West End: A Report by Magdalena Grabias

Jermyn Street Theatre, August 2014

NP JST 17A long awaited week of 'Alchemy' shows in the London Off West End was over much too fast... After a year of preparations including weeks of rehearsals, designing costumes, building scenery, endless vocal and acting exercises, pre-show promotion, designing programmes, gathering equipment, planning lights and sound effects, we finally stood in front of the Jermyn Street Theatre staring in wonder at the banner placed neatly at the entrance. 'Alchemy' made its way to the West End!

Undeniable success of the shows, confirmed by audiences' more-than-warm reception was, in fact, a result of hard work of many people both on and off stage. The show has matured and developed conspicuously since its concert premiere in Katowice and a lot of alterations have been introduced since its theatrical version in Cheltenham. Ian Baldwin, a director of the London production, planned and supervised every detail of the show with expertise, determination and creativity. The characters got “carved” into perfection and each scene got skilfully balanced and crafted. Baldwin directorial skills combined with Clive Nolan's genius resulted in a witty, visually stunning and musically delightful production.

'Alchemy' is a time-machine... For two hours, the audiences got transferred into the heart of Victorian London. Exquisite Steampunk costumes, props and scenery, designed for this occasion by Natalie Barnett and her assistants and Beth Turner (Mr. Nolan's and Mr. Sears costumes), provided a unique flavour to the scenes and got us drawn into an adventurous realm of Professor King and his entourage. Mark Westwood (sound design) and Alec Morris (lighting design) deserve a special mention, as the vibe and mood of the whole show was as much an outcome of their visionary ideas and labour as that of the actors on stage.

'Alchemy' in the Off-West End: A Review by Simon Lewis

TK revi SL 7A year after its UK première in Gloucestershire, Clive Nolan’s sumptuous rock opera has justifiably graduated to the West End, albeit to one of its lesser-known theatres, but, auspiciously, close to Piccadilly Circus and the premier league temples of Shaftesbury Avenue. Following the intimacy of Cheltenham Playhouse, I found myself ensconced in the even more confined cellar that is the Jermyn Street Theatre for two enthralling hours of bold music and entertaining story-telling. With space at a premium, however, enterprising director Ian Baldwin opted to field a smaller cast, as well as sacrifice some movement and all the dance sequences.

For all the enforced adaptations, it was still a tremendous little show, and one which deserves to be a whole lot bigger. The score is the musical equivalent of a mountain range: consistently high summits, not just the occasional lofty peak surrounded by low, featureless valleys. Songs like the pulsating Quatenary Plan, the thrilling The Girl I Was and Share This Dream, the heartening Amelia and the sinister The End Justifies The Means are as good as anything in Les Misérables and The Phantom of the Opera, and would easily stir patrons of the great Theatreland venues round the corner.

'Alchemy' at the Cheltenham Playhouse: A Review by Ed Wilkins

EW rev 3The Cheltenham Playhouse is packed and I'm sat near the front; in the orchestra pit the group of rock musicians sit, ready to begin. The lights dim and two figures stride onto the stage. The opening night of Alchemy has begun!

The production is written by Pendragon keyboardist Clive Nolan, who also adapted the book She into a progressive rock musical that was performed at the Playhouse a few years ago. Alchemy is a progressive rock-themed musical set during the Victorian Age and tells the tale of Samuel King and his race against time as he tries to stop Lord Henry Jagman from unlocking the darkest secrets of Alchemy. I had been following Alchemy's production and had enjoyed She when I saw it in Cheltenham, so when it finally arrived I was very eager to see the story unfold!

So was the show worth the wait? Of course it was! From beginning to end each of the actors played their part with great gusto and emotion. Unlike previous musical productions that I have seen that have the formula of keeping spoken parts and songs separate, Alchemy had a constant backing from the musicians and was almost entirely sung by the cast, similar to how She was performed.

The songs were both catchy and memorable, with every cast member in fine form. Several of the cast feature on the soundtrack CD, such as Agnieszka Swita (Amelia Darvas), David Clifford (William Clifford), Victoria Bolley (Eva Bonaduce), Chris Lewis (Thomas Anzeray) and Clive Nolan himself as Samuel King. They all stepped into the roles and acted out their parts perfectly. Joining them were several local actors such as Paul Blower (Milosh), Ross Andrews (Joseph Farrell) and Verity Smith (Jane Muncey) and many more, too numerous to mention, who also put in fine performances.

'Alchemy' in Cheltenham. The Matinee: A Review by Magdalena Grabias

Mat6The afternoon matinee show, performed by the understudies, was a truly unique event. It was the first chance for us all to watch 'Alchemy' performed by a different cast. In fact, not entirely different, since some of the principals, Victoria Bolley, Chris Lewis and Ross Andrews, were cast in different roles for the matinee, whilst Verity Smith reappeared on stage in her role of Jane Muncey. Thus, together with the Chorus, the show was full of familiar faces.

The role of Professor King, certainly one of the most demanding parts in the musical, was taken on by Ross Andrews, a Cheltenham theatre and TV actor, who was also cast in the role of Captain Farrell in the principal cast. As Professor King, he had a chance to reveal the whole spectrum of his considerable acting skills, which resulted in an interesting and credible character, received by the audience with fitting enthusiasm.

King's arch-enemy, Lord Henry Jagman, was played by Chris Lewis. Having created the delightful and terrifying character of Thomas Anzeray in the main show, Lewis undertook a difficult task of convincing the audience also in the role of a loveable scoundrel, so brilliantly performed by Andy Sears in the principal cast. Fortunately, Lewis did not fall victim to the beguiling temptation of imitating Mr. Sears. Evidently conscious of the challenge, Lewis succeeded instead in conveying a Clive Nolan’s literary vision of the part, whilst creating his own version of the character; a classy and believable villain. Spectacular performance!

'Alchemy' in Cheltenham: A Review by Magdalena Grabias

“Something fantastic will happen tonight”...

Mg Rev 2For most of the Caamora Theatre Company, the theatrical adventure of 'Alchemy' began long before the final production week at the Cheltenham Playhouse Theatre in September, 2013. The actors and actresses, the chorus and the band had attended regular rehearsals for almost a year before they eventually appeared under the spotlights on the Playhouse stage. I can confirm with certainty that long weeks of hard work paid off, and that the final result must have delighted even the most demanding connoisseur of thespian art.

If the UK premiere of Clive Nolan's previous musical, 'SHE', performed at the Cheltenham Playhouse in February 2012, could be justly considered enchanting, solid and professional, the Cheltenham production of 'Alchemy' exceeded its predecessor with the magnitude of the directorial vision as well as the actors' renditions. With more than 50 people in the production, the 4 shows (including two sell-out performances) provided the viewers with over two hours of top class entertainment.

Clive Nolan

I could not start this review with the name of anyone else but the writer, composer, choreographer (!) and actor cast in the role of the eminent Samuel King, Maestro Clive Nolan. The man of many talents, acclaimed rock keyboardist, and singer once again surprised us with his rendition of the role of Professor King which, compared to the Katowice Concert version in February, was much more dynamic. In Cheltenham, Clive succeeded in conveying the complexity and multidimensionality of the character in its entirety. Bravo to the subtle references to such masterpieces of musical theatre like 'Oliver' or 'Les Miserables'! Thanks to the most intelligent development of the character, Professor King was as credible, convincing and as noble as Jean Valjean and at times as cunning and comical as Fagin. Evidently, Clive must have enjoyed both the character himself as well as the process of creating King's theatrical impersonation. Hopefully, we will see Clive in many more theatre productions to come! What an exceptional talent!

'Alchemy' Album: A Review by Kevin Rowland

Kat Mar smIt has been more than twenty years since I first made contact with Clive, and since then I have followed his musical adventures with great interest. I spent one Summer holiday playing Shadowland’s ‘Ring of Roses’ almost constantly as one of my daughters (who was all of five years old at the time) declared that it was the most amazing thing she had ever heard. Fast forward to 2004 and another of my daughters had me play ‘The Hound of the Baskervilles’ constantly as she was of the same view with this particular album (and she was older at eleven). Me, I have enjoyed everything Clive has been involved with, from Strangers on a Train and Pendragon through Shadowland and others and have always enjoyed our chats in various pubs and venues. But, having seen photos of the Polish show of this album, would it live up to expectations?

I initially received this as a digital download to review, but it wasn’t long before I bought the CD and the t-shirt (literally) as I just had to have the complete package in my hands. To say that this is by far Clive’s greatest achievement may be quite a statement to make, but playing this through just once will ensure that you agree with me. Clive has brought together some great musicians to assist him in providing the wonderful backdrop, but it is the singers that steal the show. This is much more than ‘just’ a concept album, it is a full-blown musical, and even though there is further explanation in the detailed booklet that comes with the double CD set, the lyrics and narration ensure that the listener knows exactly what is happenings. It is a quest, a fight of good against evil, with Professor King (played by Clive) and his colleagues attempting to foil the dastardly plot of Lord Henry Jagman (Andy Sears).

'Alchemy' Album: A Review by Alison Henderson

421445 10151454866926069 1498497962 n KopiaClive Nolan has for 20 years been one of the leading lights in symphonic prog through being the regular keyboards player with major bands including Pendragon, Arena, Shadowland and Caamora. In 2005, he added to his impressive canon of work by composing his first musical 'She' which was subsequently staged in Holland, the UK, Poland and surprisingly, Bolivia.

However, 'Alchemy' is a completely original piece penned by Nolan, a Victorian Steampunk musical melodrama set in 1842 which has all the essential ingredients for a rattling good yarn - adventure, love and passion, betrayal and revenge, and the ever present quest for power.

Central to the plot is Professor Samuel King played by Nolan who sets off to find three hidden artefacts left behind by alchemist, Thomas Anzeray. But the villain of the piece Lord Jagman (Andy Sears), who thinks King is dead, is also off in pursuit of the artefacts, firstly by tricking mystery girl Amelia Darvas, played by Caamora Theatre Company star Agnieszka Swita. After being double-crossed Amelia finds herself sentenced to a public execution but is saved by King and his friends.

'Alchemy Live': A Review by Kevin Rowland

KR Alche Live 5Earlier this year I was provided with some downloads to review, and although I noted that one was a new album by Clive Nolan I didn't pay it any more attention than any of the others, as although we have known each other for many years, I wasn't aware what it was. When I eventually listened to it for the first time I was blown away, so much so that I immediately purchased the album and a t-shirt! Since then I have played at least part of the album once a week, every week. It has become the 'go to' album in the car when my youngest daughter is with me (her favourites are "Ambush" and "Burial At Sea" while I always go to "The Unwelcome Guest", "The Warning" and "The End Justifies The Means"). It is rare for me to play music for pleasure (get out the violins and handkerchiefs) as I am normally listening to the next set of albums I need to review, but there is something incredibly compelling about this piece of work that brings me back time and again. The last time I can remember an album having this much impact on me was 'Snow', and I know I didn't play that as much as I have this. But, this isn't a review of the double CD of 'Alchemy', but rather of the five disc set which is 'Alchemy Live'. Two CDs of the performance, an additional CD of bonus numbers, a DVD of the live show, and then a further DVD containing loads of bonus material which gives a real insight into how this all came together.

'Alchemy' in Katowice: A Review by Artur Chachlowski

Nat001Clive Nolan's 'Alchemy' concluded the 'Evening at the Theatre' on February 22nd, 2013. To cut a long story short, I must say that it was worth waiting years to witness such a story, full of drama and romance, performed live on stage at Teatr Slaski. Once more Clive managed to capture and convey the mood of the Victorian era in his musical in a masterly manner and the singers performed their songs with mindblowing perfection. There was no exception! Even the eleventh hour replacement of Paul Menel's character was a success: Christopher Longman, in his black coat and a bowler hat, provided us with a sublime performance.

For me, one of the biggest highlights of the evening was Andy Sears performing the role of the baddie, Lord Jagman, and the soprano Victoria Bolley as Eva Bonaduce. Our own Agnieszka Swita, cast as Amelia, was very convincing too. What an incredibly talented girl she is! It is a real joy for us Poles to see a Polish singer in the company of some of the most beloved and acclaimed prog artists. Next to Agnieszka, Amelia's romantic interest, William Gardelle was played by a truly unique vocalist David Clifford. A real star, however, turned out to be David's daughter, Soheila, cast in an episodic role of Jessamine. Not only does the 15-year-old Soheila look good, she is also blessed with a voice of an angel! It was equally nice to behold a well-known Landmarq duet, Tracy Hitchings and Damian Wilson, even though they appeared on stage together only for a curtain call.

'Alchemy' in Katowice: Through the Eyes of the Alchemists

482544 462376120496007 1902238993 nClive Nolan: After an epic journey involving minibuses, two flights and some more minibuses, we arrived at the Hotel Katowice to be greeted with a glass of champagne and a slice of 'Alchemy Cake' (thanks Magda!). That was a great way to mark the beginning of our Polish Alchemy adventure! In truth I had conflicting feelings running around my system... A sense of excitement that we were finally going to perform 'Alchemy' (the culmination of three years virtually locked in my 'keyboard room'), but also the bristle of anxiety as to how this ambitious venture may go.

As I stood in the hotel foyer trying to sort out various room allocations, I realised just how many people were involved in this project. The 'Alchemy 'entourage' was about 22 people alone, and that didn't include the team provided by Metal Mind at the theatre. Quite a challenge! My internal question was would I sleep well?...

We visited the theatre that night, to sort out a few issues, and get a feel for the venue. I have made many DVDs at the 'Wyspianski Theatre' over the years, but that never lessened the degree of tension I always feel when I walk onto that stage. This was no exception.

It had already been agreed that the musicians would arrive at the theatre at 7am the next morning, to unload and to set up. The singers would arrive at 9 for the sound check. Then after some interviews, technical issues, hanging around and generally building up the pressure, we were climbing into our costumes and preparing for 'curtain up' on the show. Then suddenly, it was done... And I was in the foyer signing albums and trying to work out how the show went. 'Well' seemed to be the answer... and why not. This is the finest team of people I have worked with: everybody worked hard, and worked well together... everyone got on... everyone took their jobs and responsibilities seriously... that made the whole experience so much easier for me. I can only compliment and congratulate every single one of the 'Alchemists' who made this show... Singers, Musicians and Crew... all brilliant... thanks!!
Oh... and did i sleep that night?... No! :-)

'Alchemy in Concert': A Review by Magdalena Grabias

 Of Alchemistic Charms and Spells: 'Alchemy in Concert' in Katowice, Poland.

al35It was three years ago that the idea for 'Alchemy' was first born in the mind of Clive Nolan, the musical's author and composer. Being the prolific worker that he is, Clive did not let us wait long to hear about his rapidly developing new project which, to the astonishment of an eager audience, first saw the daylight in the form of a short story! To those who have been following the diverse career of the institution known as Clive Nolan with care, this should not come as a surprise. 'Alchemy' is, after all, not the first literary venture of the artist. However, taking into consideration the multidimensionality of the musical and its realisation, 'Alchemy' is perhaps the most versatile of his projects thus far.

After 'She' and 'Otra Vida', much work went into preparing Clive’s progressive rock followers for his next non-progressive album. The endless flow of publicity announcing the coming of 'Alchemy the Musical' left no doubts as to the nature of the album. Hence, the audience gathered at the Katowice premiere in Teatr Slaski on February 22nd, 2013, did not display much surprise at hearing the melodic harmonies of quartets and quintets, the thespian manner of the villain or indeed the soprano aria composed and performed in a classic operatic tradition. Nevertheless, the advocates of the progressive rock were not left without rocky moments and spatial crescendos of orchestral arrangements.

'Alchemy' by Clive Nolan: A Review by Dmitry M. Epstein

Kara rokita 222The ringmaster of keyboards crystallizes his dark, if relentlessly romantic, vision in a musical Victorian novel.

Given Clive Nolan‘s work with a string of collectives he’s either a part or leader of, it’s surprising that the maestro finds time to come up with one concept album after another. On the other hand, a rock opera – or musical, as Clive puts it – framework allows for recurrent themes and, thus, may save some time; in Nolan case, though, it neither affects quality nor results in repetition. More so, having previously dealt with classical works by Carroll, Conan Doyle and Haggard, he produced a story of his own this time, which, while full of adventure novels clichés, is engaging thanks to melodies and role positioning fashioned with a firm sight on stage. But then, a studio version of “Alchemy” gives more space for one’s imagination.