On the “cottage sitting room” set at Fiction Studios, seven musical theatre actors and a bright three-piece band give a concert-style UK premiere of Drew Gasparini’s Broadway studio album hit.
This is a concept musical about young people and their issues. There’s no attempt at a story, though you are free to make the odd connection if you wish. Seventeen songs, mostly solo but with a couple of duets and a trio run around 75 minutes in total.
As you would expect, the pre-occupations are love, sexuality, love, sexuality and status.
A young man needs his mother, with a neat twist at the end of the song. A young woman just needs someone, and then 17-year-old boy needs his absent father after getting a letter from an absent girlfriend.
By the fourth number we are into Jason Robert Brown territory as a young husband and wife spit with remorse during a breakup.
The pace changes with a slightly rockier number about a young man falling in love, a clear and simple lyric before the funniest song in the show – another young man baffled by female moods. Funny, reflective and a little crazy.
We are back with a duet next, she dumps him, he feels he is the injured party, which leads into the act one closer. A relatable internal monologue number from a man who smothered his relationship with love.
The second act opens with the only trio. three men who have done well after high school despite being outcasts while attending. Are they a hit band? Either way, “they never saw it coming” as the underdog wins in country and western style.
Probably the most dramatic song in the show sees a 17-year-old prom-queen waiting for “Two Little Lines.” Music, phrasing, and lyric combine with proper theatricality.
After that someone waiting to be found seems a little incongruous considering what it may lead to and another equally forgettable song could be about pregnancy mood-swings.
Tom writes to Lucy while in class, a kiss hopefully going somewhere if she responds. To even things up we get a gay man waiting for his lover and two gay women duetting on the state of their relationship.
Closing with a final male / female duet about the benefit of a good relationship, the lasting impression is that all bases have been covered.
Without a storyline and lacking a varied, distinctive score, this will no doubt please most anyone already familiar with the concept album. The entire cast and musicians work very hard to give each song individuality but there isn’t much real expansion on emotion for those who have already experienced it.
Certainly a presentation that younger audiences will relate to, with those memories still fresh, and the singers are going to appeal to that generation of London’s theatregoing crowd too. Just maybe not for the more mature person, is the conclusion.