Writer Rachel Wagstaff is well known for her stage adaptation of Sebastian Faulks’ wartime drama Birdsong but her new show Sheffield is a much more upbeat affair.
The story for new Crucible Theatre musical Flowers for Mrs Harris is taken from a novel by Paul Gallico.
Ada Harris, a cleaner in post-war London, is left breathless by a Dior dress she sees in a rich client’s wardrobe. She saves hard and heads to Dior in Paris to realise her dream of having a couture dress, beginning an adventure that transforms the lives of those she meets.
Given the storyline, the show could easily be too sentimental. Rachel said: “I think we’ve managed to avoid that. We hope it’s a very enjoyable ride as well.”
The journey to get Mrs Harris to the stage has been an enjoyable ride for Rachel herself.
She said: “I was first brought to it by the producer Vicky Graham, who first had the idea to adapt it. She thought I might be the right sort of person to do it.
“I loved Paul Gallico as a child and went back and read the book. It is so beautiful and so moving and such a lovely story, with such rich characters and so much heart.
“I fell in love with it and was desperate to do it. I thought, ‘oh God, this should be a musical. It has to be a musical’ but when I met Vicky I didn’t dare mention it to her. They are so much more expensive and much harder to get right.”
They both realised there was no other way go.
Vicky got Rachel working with composer Richard Taylor, who lives in Sheffield.
They shuttled between Sheffield and Croydon, where she lives, working scene by scene.
Later in the process, Daniel Evans came on board as director.
Rachel said: “He is such a clever, inspiring and insightful man. We bounced ideas around between the three of us and that really lifted it.”
Rachel is thrilled by what Daniel, the cast and production team have created: “It is a challenge to adapt something that already exists in one form, re-creating it in some entirely different form and still stay true to what it was. I couldn’t be happier with what the result is.”
Rachel saidof Birdsong: “Everyone said it couldn’t be done, then we did it. Then they did it again and again!
“Sebastian Faulks asked me to adapt two more things with him. We have a very good working relationship. I’m lucky to have worked with such a talented and brilliant storyteller.”
Takes one to know one…
Flowers for Mrs Harris is at the Crucible until June 4. Box office: 0114 249 6000 or www.sheffieldtheatres.co.uk