FROM 'THE OTHER PALACE THEATRE' RUN in July 2018. Some actors have now left
(seen at the afternoon performance on 1st July 2018).
The producers consider
this show to be a "work in progress," and thus haven't run an official
"press night." Since the monkey only writes opinions rather than reviews anyway,
it sees no reason to pass a few remarks.
This really is a strange, but oddly likeable curiosity. Part "Grease," part
"Carrie The Musical," a twisted - in all respects - storyline is at least mostly
involving, and sometimes rises to heights of creativity. In fact, the monkey
isn't sure that younger (mid-teen to early-twenties) audiences who flocked to
the show and enjoyed it with beautifully-mannered enthusiasm actually got some
of the wonderful nostalgic subtleties that us oldies did. Oh, and on that one, a
quick nod to whoever chose the pre-show and interval music.
Carrie Hope Fletcher is the headline draw as Veronica Sawyer, unpopular until
her skills pull her into the "in" crowd, where she feels her best chance of
surviving Senior Year lie. New boy Jason 'J.D.' Dean (Jamie Muscato) has other
ideas, though. The monkey's first time seeing CHF live, and it now understands
the fan fascination for her. Still young and very much learning (and clearly
proud of that, which is as it should be), she has a very rare thing - stage
charisma. A touch of Sheridan Smith's "Legally Blonde" spark is evident,
interesting. Muscato is far better known to the monkey, and he excels in a
peculiarly patchily written role.
As "The Heathers," Jodie Steele (Heather Chandler) is all Bitch with a
capital B - and the monkey is sure she will take that for the compliment it is
meant to be. Side-kicks T'shan Williams (Heather Duke) and Sophie Isaacs
(Heather McNamara) work well together, especially in the second act when given
an opportunity to do more than support their queen. Outcast Jenny O'Leary
(Martha Dunnstock) can do teenage with the best. Sadly, she is given a solo in
the second half that demonstrates an ability stronger than the actual number.
On the "Jock" side, Dominic Andersen (Ram Sweeney) and Christopher Chung
(Kurt Kelly) do best with their decent comic and stage-fight material in act 1,
but are rather left to their own devices after a pretty tasteless (in the
current showbiz climate) act two sequence.
Their fathers, Edward Barwua (Ram's Dad) and Jon Boydon (Kurt's Dad) fare
rather better in small but significant roles - Barwua holding the stage with a
notable scene. Doubling as Veronica's Mom and teacher Ms Fleming, Rebecca Lock
is pretty much a model for the younger performers to follow, her timing and
delivery showing her years of experience.
In the supporting company, Laurent Drew (New Wave Girl) and Alex James-Hatton
(Beleaguered Geek) are the ones to note, with likeable energy and enthusiasm
Of the show itself, around 20 minutes work brilliantly. A couple of fight
sequences, the key plot-reveals and from mid "Beautiful" through "Candy Store"
to "Dead Girl Walking" are pretty solid - just a rhyming dictionary to burn in
places. There's another 50 minutes, including "My Dead Gay Son" and the
climactic which perhaps need attention to strengthen the score which almost but
doesn't quite land. The main issue, though, is the shape of the second half,
into which established characters vanish and the story feels stretched without
sharp enough music - "Kindergarten Boyfriend" in particular to carry it.
The whole tone can't decide if it is "tongue in cheek" or serious. Given the
subject matter, it is hard for sure to establish the direction, but it does work
best as satire, the monkey feels - and this perhaps should be the direction in
which it should develop.
Still, it's performed with pep, it's mostly quite fun and with far more work
should be if not a real classic, at least something new for High Schools and
above to delight in playing.
Four stars for the cast, three for the show at the moment.
Photo credit: Pamela Raith Photography. Used by kind permission.