Bare: the rock musical

Rating *****
Reviewed by Alex Foott

Greenwich Theatre
Performance date – Friday 11th October 2013

Take a pinch of Catholic schooling and throw in fistfuls of adolescent rebellion. Whisk into a frenzy and cover with lashings of rock music and you have the recipe for what surely must be the least imaginative musical ever to waft over from the States. And that may well be the case. However, with a score that is nothing short of musically genius and a cast that will have you positively breathless with admiration, the predictable plot twists become monstrously captivating. Interestingly, Bare: the rock musical depicts a generation of young people who have somewhat outgrown Catholicism, basking in the glory of drug abuse and promiscuity. With two gay teenagers as its heroes, this show is something of a counter attack to the years of condemnation suffered at the hands of the Church.

We are first introduced to Peter, a shy and good-natured student, whose lover, Jason, is adored by all and sundry throughout the school. Jason refuses to publicly acknowledge their relationship for fear of ruining his reputation. After much deliberation, Peter persuades Jason to audition for the school’s performance of Romeo and Juliet and he is ultimately cast as the male lead. As rehearsals get swiftly underway, Jason’s sister Nadia strikes up a semi-jocular enmity with Ivy, envying her statuesque physique and buzzing sex life. Ivy, along with the rest of the school, is oblivious to the two boys’ fragile relationship and sets her sights on the universally coveted Jason. Tumbling through various substance-fuelled parties, she succeeds in cornering him and, needless to say, secrets erupt in a torrent of whispers with one classmate or another sure to be eavesdropping at any given moment.

Bare: the rock musical is a hugely successful piece boasting a cast with voices that blend technical finesse with emotional connection: a winning combination that will have crowds of casting directors clawing at the stage door. Michael Vinsen and Ross William Wild as Peter and Jason provide a refreshingly subtle portrayal of the young gay lovers with equally sublime tenors that almost lift us from our seats. Jodie Steele’s lilty rock belt is phenomenally infused with Ivy’s teenage angst while Molly Stewart’s comical timing interestingly accentuates Nadia’s frustration and misery. The standout performance, and a clear winner for the highlight of the piece is Claudia Kariuki’s sparkling performance as the Virgin Mary. Rest assured, there isn’t even a suggestion of a blue mantle. In its place stands a bouncing afro and jive-talking sass mouth that booms around the stage, fetching a cascade of rapturous applause. At times, the choreography makes the stage overly busy, yet there is a truly redeeming moment during one of the parties where the cast manoeuvres seamlessly from fist pumping and head banging to beautifully emotive lyrical movements.

A powerful criticism of Catholic teachings, Bare: the rock musical seizes our modern acceptance of homosexuality and uses it to drive home the injustice done to countless men and women. The young characters are skillfully cast with each of the gifted performers excelling in their representation of school children. This show is the perfect platform from which this new wave of graduates can be sure to ascend into brilliance.

Book by Jon Hartmere and Damon Intrabartolo
Music by Damon Intrabartolo
Lyrics by Jon Hartmere