STAGE REVIEW: Napoli, Brooklyn - at the Festival Theatre, Malvern, from Wednesday, May 1 to Saturday, May 4, 2019.

THIS story of the trials and tribulations of a an Italian immigrant family in 1960s America is a real roller-coaster of emotions that is both richly absorbing and enthralling.

The European premiere of Meghan Kennedy’s tale of three sisters is a story loosely based on her mother’s adolescence as she grew up in a big Catholic immigrant family, and it wonderfully captures their struggles as life around them rapidly changed.

It’s a new, well newish, play but it hits home in an old fashioned way as it uncovers three young women, all strong-willed, but partially cowed by an abusive and domineering father until the moment of reckoning at a Christmas gathering.

It’s slightly sluggish at times and possibly too many changes to a stark set that didn’t always appear necessary, but that’s a spot of nit-picking about an otherwise exemplary offering.

There’s ongoing conflict mixed with moments of tenderness, and there’s total tragedy too, but with everyone regularly delighted by Luda’s delicious culinary skills, you just know a spot of seasoning and a little garnish will eventually leave a good taste.

If only we could have smelled some of that cooking…

The cast of eight work well together, with several sensitive portrayals adding to hard-hitting moments of emotion.

Robert Cavanah is hugely impressive as the family’s head Nic Muscolini who, we learn, arrived in the USA as a ship’s stowaway.

“What was the ocean like?" queries one daughter, but he claimed never to have seen it during his days on board. Surely he had to find food, drink and visit the bathroom at some stage!?

Ignoring that, the script has a nice easy flow, spiced with happier interludes among the threatening phases and the drama is really cranked up by a plane crash!

Muscolini rules home life with an iron fist but there’s no denying the spirit of his wife and daughters.

Madeleine Worrall provides a convincing Luda, the wife attempting to keep as sweet as possible the situation they are in as Muscolini rues and rants at his failings in producing a son.

The daughters - the tomboyish Francesca, hard-working Tina, and Vita - now temporarily living in a convent having been hospitalised after a brutal attack by her father, are all superbly played by Hannah Bristow, Mona Goodwin and Georgia May Foote respectively.

Fine portrayals too from Gloria Onitiri as Celia, a factory friend of Tina, whose life is hit by tragedy, Stephen Hogan as the store owner Albert wishing to ‘rescue’ Luda and Laurie Ogden as his daughter Connie, who wants to spend the rest of her life with Francesca.

Together they all provide a most authentic melodramatic feeling to the proceedings which augurs well for when this play from the Original Theatre Company, heads for a run in London.

It does have atmosphere and it should, and does, deserve to do well.