"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

KR Rev MGOn 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.


Kings Ransom cover finalClive Nolan hatte sich nach seinem Musical ‚Alchemy‘ geschworen, nie wieder werde er sich zwei Jahre in sein Studio verkriechen und ein weiteres Prog Musical schreiben. Und dennoch, er hat es wieder getan. Sogar drei Jahre hat es diesmal gedauert mit Schreiben, Orchestrieren, Aufnehmen und Mastern im Thin Ice Studio, welches ihm zusammen mit Karl Groom gehört. Im September ist das Ergebnis seiner Arbeit nun als Deluxe Box erschienen, mit den CDs Akt 1 und Akt 2 des Musicals einer CD mit Raritäten, Demos und unveröffentlichtem Material, sowie einer ‚Making of‘ - DVD, auf der Clive den Entstehungsprozess dokumentiert. Clive spielt hier alle Keyboards und wird unterstützt von Mark Westwood (Shadowland) an der Gitarre, Kylan Amos (Arena) am Bass, Scott Higham (ex Pendragon) am Schlagzeug, dem Gründer von Caamora Norwegen Morten L. Clason (Flöte), Penny Gee (Violine) und Alaster Bentley (Oboe). Der Chor, bestehend aus über 30 Stimmen, sorgt für die bombastischen Momente.

Mit ‘King's Ransom’ liegt nun eine direkte Fortsetzung von Alchemy vor, das mit den Worten ‘Vielleicht ist die Geschichte doch noch nicht zu Ende’, seinen Abschluss fand. Wir erinnern uns: Der Alchemist Thomas Anzeray hatte Professor Samuel King befohlen die mystischen Artefakte den Flammen zu übereignen, bevor er wieder ins Totenreich verschwand. Allen voran das Tagebuch, welches unter keinen Umständen weiter existieren dürfe. Doch bevor es vom Feuer vernichtet werden konnte, hatte es King heimlich wieder an sich genommen und war gegangen.

CLIVE NOLAN "KING'S RANSOM" CD: A REVIEW BY Artur Chachlowski (Poland)

Kings Ransom cover finalMam ten przywilej, że od ponad 25 lat jestem blisko każdego nowego projektu, w który zaangażowany jest doskonale znany i niezwykle popularny w naszym kraju keyboardzista Pendragonu, Clive Nolan. Byłem świadkiem narodzin grupy Shadowland, projektu Strangers On A Train, byłem przy powstawaniu pierwszej płyty Areny, a od kilku lat obserwuję jak Clive rozwija swoją nową muzyczną pasję – rockowe musicale.

Na naszych łamach wielokrotnie pisaliśmy o dwóch jego poprzednich dziełach: „She” oraz „Alchemy”. I to zarówno przy okazji scenicznych (oba były wystawiane na deskach Teatru Śląskiego w Katowicach), jak i ich płytowych premier. Cztery lata po „Alchemy” nadeszła pora na kolejny musical Nolana – „King’s Ransom”. Jest on kolejną porcją przygód Profesora Kinga i jego znanych z „Alchemy” towarzyszy: Evy Bonaduce i Williama Gardelle’a. Tym razem Profesor King (w tej roli Clive Nolan) staje przed zadaniem powierzonym mu przez samą królową Wiktorię. Oto kraj zmaga się z nieznanym wrogiem. Premier Robert Peel zostaje porwany, a Imperium Brytyjskie staje u progu politycznej przepaści. King odkrywa, że za spiskiem politycznym stoi pułkownik Luther Scovil, który poi premiera trucizną trudną do wykrycia nawet najznamienitszym medykom. Antidotum stanowić może serum sporządzone z egzotycznej i niezwykle rzadkiej "orchidei jednorożca". Jak głosi legenda, wyciąg z tej magicznej rośliny uleczyć może wszelkie choroby, a nawet przezwyciężyć śmierć. Jeden taki kwiat został przywieziony do Anglii przez świętej pamięci kapitana Fergusa Maundera. Z pomocą wiernych przyjaciół i paranormalnych zdolności pewnego medium, bohaterowie odnajdują orchideę i stają do walki z wrogiem. Jednakże w rezultacie owej intrygi traci życie profesor King... Ale czy na pewno? Musical kończy się w otwarty sposób, który daje nadzieję na kontynuację losów głównego bohatera.

Clive Nolan "King's Ransom" CD: A Review by Kev Rowland (New Zealand)

Kings Ransom cover finalClive and I started talking to each other at the time of the first Shadowland album, and I have been fortunate to review most of his recordings since then, through multiple bands and projects. I missed the musical 'She' (one of the problems caused by moving to the other side of the world), which was released under the name 'Caamora', but did come across 'Alchemy' which used many of the Caamora Theatre Company, but was released under his own name. Here he introduced us to the world of Professor Samuel King, and his battle with Lord Henry Jagman to solve the mysteries of Anzeray. I, like many others, log everything I play on the LastFM website, and according to their records I have played this album more than any other since I started logging my plays at the beginning of 2007 (the next two are 'The Snow Goose' and 'Snow' as you didn't ask). One of my daughters loves this almost as much as me, and it is often chosen to be played in the car, with "The Unwelcome Guest" being especially favoured (and consequently the most played song according to the same site).

So, when I heard that Clive was releasing another album in the same series I was intrigued. It just so happened that I was back in the UK in August for the first time in more than five years, and somehow the planets aligned for myself and Clive to meet for the first time in aeons. Sat in his music room, talk soon turned to the new album, so he passed me his bound copy of the lyrics and he then started to play highlights to me, explaining the story and thinking behind it. The events in this musical follow on from 'Alchemy', albeit a few years later, and does include some of the same characters. Interestingly, although many of the musicians have played on both, very few of the same singers are involved again. Also, although there are a couple of small mentions of things that happened on 'Alchemy', there is no need to have heard that release as this stands up in its own right. But, if one has heard the first one then there are both lyrical and musical repetitions designed to make the listener smile, as if they have been let into a secret.


Kings Ransom cover finalIt’s been a long time since I felt this way about an album. It’s also not likely that I’ve ever been as well prepared to write a review as I am now. I’ve had a preview copy for a couple of months and I’ve listened to it hundreds of times. You see where this review is going. In short: a new Neo-Victorian musical with an original libretto and completely outstanding composition and vocalists. Listen HERE and HERE.

And now something for the curious lover of details:

If you’ve been following Clive Nolan’s career it’s hardly surprising or odd that he runs his own musical theatre company, Caamora. Nolan is classically educated and although he’s made his name as a keyboard player in progressive rock bands like Pendragon and Arena, he’s no simple rocker but rather stands firmly with one foot in composition and the other in orchestration. The first time the listener could sense this was probably in Strangers On a Train’s second album The Key: The Labyrinth (1993), and when he subsequently wrote the (rock)musicals Jabberwocky and The Hound of the Baskervilles with Oliver Wakeman around the turn of the century, you could tell where his heart truly lies. 2007 saw the arrival of his first Caamora musical, She, which was based on H. Rider Haggards book by the same name.
Then Nolan took a daring step; one which sets him apart from most of the musical theatre scene today. This scene is conservative, which of course is a subjective statement, but let’s take a brief look. The West End and Broadway still do The Phantom of the Opera, Les Miserables and Oliver!, and it would seem new productions are mostly based on films, books and particularly popular music (ABBA, Queen etc.). The big stages have little room for new stories. And this Nolan has the nerve to write original librettos?

Clive Nolan "King's Ransom" CD: A Review by George Eleftheriou (Greece)

Kings Ransom cover finalClive Nolan is one of the greatest musicians in the modern Progressive Rock music scene. His name is involved in a rather big number of bands or projects, such as Pendragon, Arena, Casino, Shadowland and others. However, as Clive told me once, he has always been a great fan of musicals. In 2008 he released his first musical named as “She”, under the name Caamora. (The story was based on the book with the same name, written by H. Rider Haggard). His second musical was “Alchemy” and it was released in 2013 under his name this time. The plot took place in Victorian England in the “Alchemy Universe”, and it was based on a fictional story, written by Clive himself.


When I bought “Alchemy”, I couldn’t believe how wonderful it was, and I have no idea how many times I listened to it! (Even today, it still is one of my most beloved albums of the last decade). When I learned about “King’s Ransom”, which is the sequel of “Alchemy”, I wasn’t very surprised, mainly due to the fact that at the end of “Alchemy” there was a hint that the story could be continued in the future. I was also a little bit worried, because “Alchemy” was a really great album and I wasn’t sure if he could repeat something like that again. Thankfully, my fears were unfounded…


I pre-ordered "King’s Ransom", and what I received was a box set, including 4 CD’s, 1 DVD and 3 booklets. A very impressive and expensive production as it seems. Now, let’s take a look at the album itself. It is divided in 2 parts (Act I & Act II), and includes 33 tracks in total. Don’t forget that it's not a Progressive Rock album, it’s a musical. For the recordings of the album, Clive used 6 musicians and 11 singers who play the characters of the story. In comparison with “Alchemy”, I think that “King’s Ransom” is more sophisticated and a bit “darker”. The music is astonishing once more, and it changes according to the situations that the characters find themselves in. As for the performance of the singers, it is excellent on most occasions. (But that’s totally a matter of personal taste).

Clive Nolan “King's Ransom” CD: A Review by Magdalena Grabias

KR cover new smReleased in August 2017, "King's Ransom" is the third musical by composer, lyricist and symphonic rock legend, Clive Nolan. A sequel to his highly acclaimed 2013 “Alchemy”, the musical presents another Victorian tale of adventure, love and mystery. Returning are Professor King and his friends Eva and William to once more save the country, which sinks fast into the chasm of political intrigue and the evil plotting of the power-driven Colonel Luther Scovil. The life of the Prime Minister is in grave danger and only King and his knowledge of unearthly solutions can salvage the country and prevent disaster. The story follows the twists and turns through misfortunes and deaths, love and passion, as well as the ‘return to the living’ ghostly sequences, and leaves the listener/reader in awe of Nolan's vivid and imaginative plot and narrative skills.

A stellar cast mostly known from Nolan’s other projects delivers the captivating story. Progressive rock enthusiasts will be pleased with the return of Magenta's vocalist - the queen of prog - Christina Booth, who had also starred in Nolan's first musical “She” (2008). Returning is also Clive's long-time collaborator, Alan Reed (ex-Pallas), who had appeared in the Nolan productions as early as Casino (1992), Strangers On A Train (1993), and later on took the role of Holly in “She”. Other cast members can be remembered from 'Alchemy” and The Caamora Theatre Company performances of Clive's musicals: Chris Longman (Ben Greaves in the DVD version of “Alchemy”) returns as a wonderfully sinister baddie, Colonel Luther Scovil, Verity White (Clive's Pendragon colleague) delivers a delightful performance as doctor Josephine Kendrick, rock singer Chris Lewis is Edwin Deeks, historian and TV presenter Ross Andrews plays Jacob Alderdyce, Robbie Gardner is an unwilling psychic Tom Worthy, Joy-Amy Wigman is Martha Kitson and Emily Frechter is a paper boy. A principal tenor role went to a guest performer, an actor and singer Guy Barnes (William Gardelle), and the soprano Gemma Ashley was cast as Eva Bonaduce. Ashley, although appearing on a Nolan album for the first time, has been a member of the Caamora Company since 2015 and could be seen accompanying Nolan on numerous European stages (including the UK, France, the Netherlands, Germany, Norway) in his theatre shows and concerts. Last but not least, Nolan himself returns in the role of his alter ego, Professor Samuel King.

"The Fire and the Quest 2": A review by Simon Lewis (The Echo)

Caamora Theatre Company
The Playhouse Theatre, Cheltenham
Friday 1st & Saturday 2nd September 2017

DSC 5077 170829 Web smTo help see out the summer, Caamora Theatre returned to Cheltenham Playhouse for the second edition of their blazing pageant The Fire and The Quest, a trilogy of productions celebrating the musical genius of local hero Clive Nolan that included the world première of his newest piece King’s Ransom, the keenly anticipated sequel to his 2013 rock opera Alchemy. It was the 2014 off-West End adaptation of that engaging Victorian tale that proved a glorious Friday night curtain-raiser which brought the now statutory multi-national audience to its feet at the end of two hours of musical and visual splendour.

The cosmopolitan mood continued during the Saturday afternoon concert Beyond the Veil, an international cabaret with Clive on keyboards accompanying his front-line vocalists, and ticking several boxes for Europe and South America. Singers from as far afield as Poland, Argentina, Iceland, Norway and Wales reeled off a litany of frequently intense songs, chiefly from his Arena albums and She: The Musical. A slight glitch ahead of the representation from The Netherlands left me wondering momentarily if anyone had considered an alternative title for the gig: Don’t Forget The Flautist.