‘Local Hero’ Musical, With New Music From Mark Knopfler: Reviews

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The poster for the 1983 film version of Local Hero

The 1983 Scottish comedy-drama film Local Hero has been revived as a stage musical, with its premiere held in Edinburgh, Scotland, in March 2019, before moving to London’s West End in 2020. As in the film, the music for the new production has been composed by Mark Knopfler, the former leader of Dire Straits.

Reviews for its Edinburgh debut were favorable. The Financial Times called it “marvellous”… “the adaptation is a delight, combining the sympathetic humour of the original with fine songs and sharper laugh-lines.”

The Guardian gave it 4 (out of 5) stars, noting: “the humour is saltier, the male leads tougher and, as for those nice girls, well, there are more of them, they’re real grownups and they aren’t quite as nice.”

The book for the musical was written by David Greig, director of the Royal Lyceum (where the show premiered on March 19), and Bill Forsyth, who directed the film, which starred Burt Lancaster and Peter Riegert. Forsyth won a BAFTA for best direction.

The stage adaptation is being produced by Edinburgh’s Royal Lyceum Theatre and London’s Old Vic. The Lyceum production runs through April 20. It will move to the Old Vic in June 2020.

Scotland’s national newspaper, The Scotsman, quotes a radio interview that Knopfler has done. “I thought my involvement would simply be to allow the theatre to music the music and for me to say ‘You are very welcome to the theme. Go to town and have fun, I’ll see ya.’

“It… dawned on me I was being asked to write songs for the characters and do a completely different thing. My initial feelings, although I don’t know whether I voiced them, were that I wouldn’t be the best choice for this.

“Before I knew it I was at full torrent and was sending demos of songs to everybody and getting pretty favorable responses. Once I started I just felt like finishing.”

The story of Local Hero centers around an American oil company representative sent to the fictional village of Ferness on the west coast of Scotland to purchase the town and the surrounding property for his company.

Watch a brief interview with the principals involved with the musical

Mark Knopfler

Greig, whose musical theatre credits also include Charlie and the Chocolate Factory in London’s West End, was quoted in a news report on BBC.com as saying, “Local Hero is one of those great Scottish stories that has captured the imaginations of people across the world, it has been one of my favorite films since I first saw it as a teenager. To have the chance to revisit these wonderful characters to help create a musical is an absolute delight.”

Old Vic artistic director Matthew Warchus says in the same article that he has “watched and rewatched” Local Hero many times. He describes it as “the perfect mixture of situation comedy and romance, combined with a strong and important message.”

Listen to “Going Home” from the film’s original soundtrack

In the radio interview quoted by The Scotsman, Knopfler says: “I’ve had a new draft of the script recently. I find myself getting tied up emotionally with the whole thing, because I’ve written other new songs for it. It just has a way of tugging your heart strings.”

Related: The story behind Dire Straits’ “Sultans of Swing”

Gerry Rafferty provided the vocals for “The Way It Always Starts” on the movie’s original soundtrack.

Watch Mark Knopfler perform “Wild Theme” from Local Hero in 1997

Knopfler has a very busy 2019. He begins an extensive tour on April 25. Tickets can be purchased here and here. He released a studio album, Down the Road Wherever, in Nov. 2018.

Related: Coverage of Dire Straits’ induction into the Rock Hall’s Class of 2018

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