The Stars That Remain

Old Joint Stock


It’s a brave man who decides to stand shoulder to shoulder with the likes of Jonathan Larson, the composer and lyricist of Rent, and Stephen Sondheim who really needs no introduction, with both of them being composer and lyricist in their musical endeavours.

However, that is the challenge that Birmingham's Adrian Kimberlin has taken on, with a new piece of work and his first musical The Stars that Remain. As if that was not enough work he has also written the book of his musical too, so all in all, a mighty solo undertaking.

Focussing upon the endurance and the erosion of love, the backdrop to his story is set in a nondescript British town. The Hartson family own a flower shop where Mum and Dad, that’s Vivian and soon to be retired policeman Ian, are still very much in love. Their two daughters Poppy and Rosa tease them continually and are a little bit embarrassed about their sugary sweet relationship.

Poppy is very much like her mother, a steadfast hard worker and a romantic, whereas her sister Rosa is the dark horse. Unbeknown to everyone Rosa has decided to secretly dance at a local night club and her naivety and involvement with the shady men there leads her into all sorts of trouble.

Rosa’s boyfriend Nathan, seems a good guy but is in fact a corrupt policeman and turns a blind eye to some of the dubious goings at the club which is run by the sleazy Charlie Moses. In addition, we have Ben and Angela Fields, a married couple who are going through severe difficulties in their relationship. After losing his mother Ben visits the flower shop one day and meets Poppy for the first time, feeling an instant attraction, yet hides his marital status from her as the romance blossoms.

On the fringes of the family life are Vernon , the overly camp but straight owner of a local hair salon and Bernard, an even camper family friend. When Roza finally begins to find out the truth about Nathan she too questions her sexuality and then finds herself attracted to another dancer Stella.

If all this sounds complicated you need not worry as there is the Bag lady, who wanders in and out of the action with her own brand of street wisdom. Often she just pokes fun, sometimes akwardly at the audience and reminds us, mostly, of what we already know. That is that Love never dies , its written in the stars and it’s all you need etc etc.


The work is more a musical drama than a musical as the 17 songs within the show mainly reflect each of the situations in which the characters find themselves rather than carry a common theme and mostly separate the scripted drama.

The Stars that Remain doesn’t tell us or say anything new that we have not heard in countless other musicals about love and at times unfortunately suffers from an identity crisis. At times there's a good dose of feel good pantomine mixed with some quite violent drama and uncomfortable personal confrontation.

There are some good songs though within the production, all produced in a soft rock, pop , style  often with a melodic musical theatre twist. Sometimes the characterisation feels thin and contradictory and in most cases characters are laboured with having to explain themselves and what’s happened in the past for the benefit of the audience. Some revision of this repeating style would have added to the impact of the story.

Alan Magor directs and as the production is self-financed, self-written, self-made and with the actors given the scope to develop their characters, a harder focus , purpose and direction would have made the whole performance stronger. It is a case of less is more as many of the theatrical devices seem to be familiar musical theatre stock rather than letting the songs and stories talk for themselves.

It’s hard though to be fully critical of this hard-working team who have laboured to bring this new musical into fruition. There is some fine talent in the cast and the team certainly make the most of some of the weaker songs within the show.

Some of the sweetest musical moments are between Ben played by Tim Benjamin and Poppy played by Lucy Follows during their more romantic moments. Ashleigh Aston as Rosa is a particularly fearless performer and alongside Drew Stevenson as Stella, they both reveal themselves in raunchy underwear as lap dancers during the upbeat song Erase Delete Undo.

Another strong performance was Charlotte Middleton as Angela Fields, Ben’s boozy wife and good support from Sarah Riches and Hugh Blackwood as Mum and Dad.

There is a good reason why so many musicals are written separately by composers, lyricists and with someone then writing the book and that’s simply because the consortium of ideas often makes for a leaner and more creative combination. One can only imagine the huge amount of work that it has taken to get this musical into this shape and Mr Kimberlin can only grow from his first experience.

It takes a long time, skill and hard editing to make something as complex as a musical work and while this is a commendable start it felt slightly lacking in direction and memorable musical content. There is fierce competition in the musical theatre field and The Stars that Remain is clearly a new contender making Mr Kimberlin one to watch.

Jeff Grant


Adrian has also written the lyrics for WW1 musical Wardrobe , which had a concert performance on 4 November at the Sands Film Studios in London featuring West End performers, to mark the centenary of the 1918 Armistice.

The musical is produced by Ben Millerman and tells the true story of Patrick Fowler who was cut off from his regiment and relying on strangers, risking death every day, spent four years avoiding capture and hiding in a wardrobe - behind enemy lines.  

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