Marie Curie : Science and Obsession
make for a musical treat

“It was my life’s work. I couldn’t give it up… I became obsessed.”

Marie Curie

Ailsa Davidson as Marie Curie (photo: Pamela Raith)

There’s a sense of trepidation coming into Marie Curie. Firstly, the subject matter would appear to be on the dry side. Granted Mme Curie was the first woman to win a Nobel prize and, to date, the only woman to win the prize twice, but does that provide suitable fodder for a musical?

Secondly, this is a translation of an original Korean musical. Yes, Korean. There’s a wealth of amazing things Korea is famed for, but artistic endeavours in musical theatre are far from that list.

But here we are, anxiously waiting for what this unlikely pairing of subject and artist throws up. Let’s cut to the chase. Any anxiety is completely wasted. This is, simply put, a great musical.

A life as full as Curie’s would be hard to adapt into a 10-part dramatic series, let alone a 100-minute musical, so if you’re looking for a historically accurate, blow by blow interpretation of her life, you’re in the wrong place. Instead, what we have is a ‘greatest hits’ of her life starting from her leaving Poland to study at the Sorbonne, where she also happened to be that university’s first ever  female student.

Ailsa Davidson as Marie Curie (photo: Pamela Raith)

We follow Marie (Ailsa Davidson) through the trials, tribulations, joys, and sorrows of her life until her appointment, as a Professor at the Sorbonne, again becoming the first female in such a post. Whilst this is a very cursory skip through her life, there is no doubt that she was a remarkable and driven woman. Hampered at every turn by her race (the Polish considered very much an underclass in France of the time), her gender, and even her status, we get more than a glimpse of her determination and passion for her work.

Cast (Photo: Pamela Raith)

Any qualms about this being a dry tale of scientific discovery are quickly quelled. This is a story about passion, determination, and unerring belief, and it suits the musical genre beautifully. This production is a mix of spoken word and songs, but the musical numbers really feel part of the storytelling. They drive the narrative forward and add emotional depth to the story.

The use of multiple narratives performed at the same time in a single song is used to powerful effect in telling multiple sides of a plot line, for example when there’s suspicion that Radium may be harming people, Curie sings on expanding her scientific research while, simultaneously, sick factory workers sing about their mystery ailments and the factory owner sings about keeping production going. It’s lyrical argument that pushes forward three narratives whilst musically linking them to each other. 

Cast (Photo: Pamela Raith)

Jongyoon Choi’s score is beautifully suited to the piece. It sits firmly in the musical theatre cannon with jazz, pop and swing references that make it feel familiar and engaging. The cast are all particularly good, but it is Ailsa Davidson, as Marie Curie, and Chrissie Bhima, as her close friend Anna Kowalska, who shine. Their performances are at the heart of the narrative, and they are both perfectly suited to the task at hand.

Rose Montgomery’s set design is a masterclass in the power of simplicity: a rotating staircase on wheels becomes Curie’s laboratory, a classroom in the Sorbonne, a factory staircase, the outside of a building, and a symbolic representation of the passing of time. When mixed with Sarah Meadows’ energetic direction and Joanna Goodwin’s choreography it is effectively evocative and impactful.

For those who look at the (uninspiring) title and dismiss this show, do so at your peril. This is a confident, bold, educational, and emotionally engaging story about a woman who deserves to be remembered and lauded. Whilst this may lack any really detailed depth, there’s enough story and emotion to give you more than a cursory insight into her life and challenges.

This is a welcome addition to the West End and to musical theatre.

Cast (Photo: Pamela Raith)

Musical Numbers


A Map of Everything

Miss Poland

The Limit

The Limit (Reprise)

Forty-Five Months

Radium Paradise Part One

Radium Paradise Part Two

Hope You’re Well

Unpredictable, Unidentified

The Memorial

Marie’s Plea

No Problem

Another Name

The Conflict

Line of Death

In the Darkness

The Conflict (Reprise)


You Are the Reason

Unpredictable, Unidentified (Reprise)




Production Notes

Marie Curie the Musical

Book and Lyrics by Seeun Choun

Music by Jongyoon Choi

English Lyrics by Emma Fraser

Directed by Sarah Meadows



Ailsa Davidson

Chrissie Bhima

Thomas Josling

Richard Meek

Lucy Young

Dean Makowski-Clayton

Maya Kristal Tenenbaum

Isabel Snaas

ChristopHer Killick

Yujin Park

Rio Maye



Director: Sarah Meadows

Choreographer: Joanna Goodwin

Designer: Rose Montgomery

Literal Translations: Ahreumbi Rew

English Book Adaptation:  Tom Ramsay

Musical Director:  Emma Fraser

Lighting Designer:  Prema Mehta

Sound Designer: Andrew Johnson

Arrangements: Emma Fraser


Running Time: One hour 40 minutes without an interval

Booking until 28th July 2024


Charing Cross Theatre

The Arches

Villiers Street

London WC2N 6NL

Box Office: 08444 930 650

Tube: Embankment

Reviewed by Sonny Waheed

at the Charing Cross Theatre

on 7th June 2024