Brand new musicals are notoriously difficult to get produced. But composer and lyricist Richard Taylor has had two this year – his Flowers for Mrs Harris has won much acclaim in Sheffield and now he makes his West End debut with The Go-Between (book and lyrics by David Wood). It’s a show he started work on some 15 years ago, and the production which is currently at the Apollo Theatre has been developed over the past five years, including a short regional tour.

Based on the novel by L. P. Hartley, which was also turned into a film, The Go-Between is a kind of coming of age story. Leo Colston is a man who is haunted by memories from 50 years ago. As a boy he had spent the summer of 1900 at the country house of his school friend Marcus in Norfolk. During that summer, the young Leo unwittingly became the ‘go-between’ – hence the show’s title – delivering handwritten messages back and forth between Marcus’ upper-class elder sister Marian and her tenant-farmer lover. Leo becomes part of an adult world which he doesn’t understand, and discovers feelings he’s never experienced before.

It’s an intriguing premise for a new musical and it’s a great fit for the Apollo Theatre which is an intimate Edwardian house. Roger Haines’ production is staged here very much as a chamber musical – it wouldn’t be out of place at the smaller Menier Chocolate Factory in Southwark. The set is quite static, with chairs and undergrowth conveying scenes both indoors and out, and the single piano on stage is a nod to the late Victorian/Edwardian drawing room.

The Go-Between is certainly not the kind of large-scale, blockbuster show that Michael Crawford is known for, but the veteran performer makes a long-awaited West End return in the lead role of Leo Colston. Crawford brings great presence to the show and is on stage for most of the time as his character relives events from the past, re-enacted by a younger version of himself, played by Johnny Evans-Hutchison the night I attended. It’s just a shame that musically this show is a little uninteresting – it’s mostly through-sung, with no really big numbers for its star. Crawford is in fine voice and there are occasional echoes vocally of the iconic roles of the past, with one number, ‘Butterfly' the closest he gets to a showstopper.

The main difficulty here is that it takes a long time to tell what is now an old-fashioned story – social morality has moved on so much, as has modern technology in this age of instant messaging. When the action moves forward in time, it would be have been interesting to cast a former grand dame of musical theatre for a brief scene rather than age up an existing character too.  Yet this new musical has moments of charm and life, with strong performances from Gemma Sutton and Stuart Ward as the doomed central lovers, and good support from Issy van Randwyck as her disapproving mother. It’s worth seeing – and supporting –  this new musical for them, and for Crawford’s portrayal of a man whose whole life has been affected by upsetting events in the past for which he has assumed blame.