I enjoy the examination of time on stage. Of course, all theatre considers time – in its pacing, and how it weaves certain moments to tell a specific story. It is also intriguing how time and circumstances shape our experience of a production. I should note that for this review, I came in having already seen this new musical adaptation of The Time Traveller’s Wife during previews a few weeks prior. If you will indulge me, it is as if I hopped back in time and witnessed it again from a different perspective.


Not surprisingly, the presentations were broadly consistent. Twice, I watched a faithful adaptation of the source novel, concerning Henry, a man whose genetic quirk sends him unpredictably across time, often leaving behind his wife, Clare. Unlike other renditions, this version places Clare at the tale’s core, granting her greater depth and agency. Despite the disorientation that can come from constant time jumps, the narrative helpfully follows Clare’s journey, from her adolescent encounters with future Henry, to their college rendezvous (chronologically synced), their marriage and beyond.


Being familiar with the show, I admit I might have spent too much energy trying to figure out the brilliantly designed disappearing/reappearing acts used for time travel sequences. But I was also able to relax into the adventure to recognize the inner fable beneath all of the pizazz. I was less concerned with the technicalities of time travel (as well as the unsettling implications of Henry’s interactions with young Clare), to be able to appreciate the underlying themes of seizing the present, and accepting life’s fleetingness.


While Joss Stone and Dave Stewart’s songs are unsatisfyingly plain, a few numbers manage to offer gorgeous moments of humanity, something I especially felt during the repeat viewing. “One Day,” a hopeful duet between young and present-day Clare, gained more joyful optimism through familiarity, while “I See Her,” a poignant father-son ballad of reminiscence, tugged at the heartstrings more deeply. Other songs, however, seem to exist purely for entertainment. “Journeyman” brings us back from the interval with a splash, and while this live pop video thrillingly presents Henry’s perils through time, it is all very trite.


Indeed, the second half loses focus, indulging in tangents that veer away from the point. It delves excessively into the mechanics of time travel, including the challenges it creates for Clare in sustaining a pregnancy. This unfortunately reduces her to being a woman so fixated on having a baby – disappointing, especially as her main arc revolves around her constantly waiting for her husband.


Ultimately, although the musical dazzles with flashy eye-candy and energetic action, the result is a lingering sense of emptiness at first inspection. Others might connect with its deeper themes more immediately, but it only began to have more weight for me the second time around. This may have been in part due to an understudy playing Henry, a capable Alex Lodge, whose honest and less pointed approach contrasted with David Hunter’s starkly goofy interpretation during previews, allowing the universal quality of the story to reveal.


With very literal screen adaptations already on offer, this theatrical translation of Audrey Niffenegger’s novel missed an opportunity to be different – to explore directions only possible on stage, and more importantly, to bring out the beauty and raw humanity of these characters that only exist in this curious universe, but are relatable to all. Maybe this would have come out more with yet another viewing, but alas, I am not a time traveller.