For his 2019 stage adaptation of the classic story All About Eve, director Ivo van Hove worked with an A-list creative team. Along with casting Gillian Anderson as Margo Channing and Lily James as Eve Harrington, he brought on PJ Harvey to compose a moody score and songs that reflect the production's darker tone. Just as van Hove's interpretation of Joseph Mankiewicz's 1950 film trades some of its satire for a more psychological approach that puts ageism, sexism, and feminism at the fore, Harvey's music borrows from and updates Franz Liszt's Liebesträume, one of the movie's musical touchstones. Working with longtime collaborator James Johnston and drummer Kenrick Rowe, Harvey abstracts Liszt's music into graceful, restless cues that offer layered meanings within their small shifts. The fluttering "Cadenza" is one of the most faithful homages to Liebesträume, as is "Change in C," where heroic doses of reverb heighten the dreaminess of its piano melody. Elsewhere, the score alludes to Liszt's work more subtly. "Waltz" adds an eerie edge to its refinement, while "Becoming" lives up to its name, swirling together uneasy strings that slowly take shape while a piano emerges from its mist. Harvey's melodic signature is all over the score as well, at times recalling the icy clarity of White Chalk and the ghostly remembrances of Let England Shake. This is particularly true of the songs she wrote for Anderson and James to sing; "The Sandman" and "The Moth" have a plaintive, fairy tale-like quality that evokes both of those albums. Though All About Eve's songs may be its most familiar-sounding moments, some of the most striking ones are the least expected. Harvey incorporates elements of jazz and electronic music into cues such as the otherworldly "Descending," the hypnotic "Lieben" and the aptly named "Shimmer." A thoughtful, complex score, on All About Eve Harvey makes the most of the chance to experiment as well as reinterpret an existing work.
AllMusic Review by Heather Phares