REVIEW: AMERICANA IN CONCERT (Theatre Royal Stratford East)

It’s not often that you want to leave the theatre ninety seconds after the lights go down. ‘Americana in Concert’ is sadly one such instance.

‘Americana’ is about growing up queer as a young American at High School. Sound familiar? Think ‘Rent’ or ‘Bare’ or ‘Xanadu’ or any of the other countless musicals that deal with this subject. There’s absolutely nothing new here.

The story follows David (Laurence Schuman – losing his voice at this performance), the resident gay outcast of the small, Hicksville town in the south of the US. David has sass in spades but is beaten down by the constant abuse of his small-minded peers, having tried to commit suicide before the action of the play begins. One of those small-minded peers is Football jock Brody (Jake Morgan) who daren’t tell anyone, including his girlfriend, that he, too, is gay. Obviously, once this news gets out, David and Brody almost immediately kiss: gays aren’t fussy, according to writers Gez Mez and Conway McDermott! The rest of the piece tracks David, Brody and his ex-girlfriend Jackson (Sienna Sebek, who does well here) as they endure their small-town lives until they can enact their plans to escape, be it through a scholarship to Yale or any means necessary!

The music is very much in the style of early nineties pop, such as Nirvana, which at times makes it difficult to hear the lyric, and the guitar-heavy orchestration can at times feel like an aural assault.

I wish I could say that an excellent cast made the best of the material, but I can’t. Some of the performers were woefully inadequate. Some of the tuning set my teeth on edge. Some of the harmonies were questionable at best.

A fully stage production is promised for later in the year. I’m not sure I’ll be able to make it.

Reviewed by Jody Tranter