When one thinks of musical theatre, it’s easy to have a myopic focus on Broadway. After all, it is held as the pinnacle of the art form, and in American culture, the name is used interchangeably with “musical” (ie: people will refer to themselves as “Broadway fans” just as quickly as “musical fans”; someone might say he saw a “Broadway” show in Cleveland; etc.). Many fans will also know of London’s West End as well, as it’s a similarly prolific producer of musicals and there is such a frequent exchange of shows between the two.
What many fans may not realize, however, is that there is a whole wide world of musical theatre ready to be explored.
Based on the Daphne du Maurier novel of the same name, the German musical Rebecca tells the dark tale of an unnamed young woman (referred to simply as “Ich” meaning “I” or “Me”) who marries a man she meets while on holiday. Upon returning to his stately home, Manderley, she finds the oppressive memory of his recently deceased wife, Rebecca, everywhere. Though most of the staff treat her with respect and are pleased that she is less demanding than the former Mrs. de Winter, the imposing Mrs. Danvers, Rebecca’s former employee and confidant, is always reminding the main character that Rebecca’s drowning does not change the fact that the house belongs to her and always will.
Mrs. Danvers, as we quickly learn, is devoted to Rebecca even after death and has kept Manderley in the exact state it was in when Rebecca was still living. Mrs. Danvers doesn’t simply inform the new Mrs. de Winter that she cannot live up to her predecessor; she insists that Manderley itself still calls for Rebecca and that her return from the misty realm of the dead is a certainty. Despite our main character’s insistence that the dead have no way of affecting the living, she is clearly unnerved by Mrs. Danvers’s unshakable belief in Rebecca’s presence. Mrs. Danvers may not be wrong in this belief, as Mrs. de Winter notices that her new husband seems preoccupied with his late wife and that every room in the house holds more than an echo of its previous owner.