REVIEW: JANUARY: A MUSICAL REVUE (Live at Zedel) ★★★★

January is both a time of year that forces us into a fresh start of our lifestyle, along with reflecting back on the previous 12 months and the highs and lows faced along the way. January: A Musical Revue summarises pretty much all aspects of the month in the gorgeous performance space that is Zedel.

Julie Atherton, Hannah Grover and Marc Pickering, perform a catalogue of original songs from Patrick Stockbridge that take us through each element of January, whether it’s a new diet, going back to work, ‘dry January,’ or even divorce. But while in reality they all sum up the ‘January blues,’ Stockbridge has managed to find some much needed comic relief for this time of the year, with emphasis on the upbeat rather than the ballad. It’s the perfect pick-me-up that January requires.

Saying this, it’s very much a work-in-progress, with scripts unashamedly out and stumbling mistakes with lines and timing here and there. Nonetheless, this is very much part of the charm. This goes along with how there is a genuine friendship being shown on stage between all three performers with their minor flaws in lines and timing, and how they recognise these, embrace them and make banter out of it. This can be a double-edged sword, whether this humour can be interior with the cast having their ‘in jokes’ between themselves, but thankfully not.

Julie Atherton is her usual brilliant self, with her awkward-humoured pausing in her verbal transitions along with her dry facial expressions and stellar vocal range, remaining consistently enjoyable throughout. Hannah Grover also shows a lot of vocal potential in her bright tone, whilst Marc Pickering provides some nice comic timing, even if he seems the least prepared of the three with much reliance on his script.

I’m not sure of the longevity of January, with its constant updating needed in the script knowing that a lot of jokes will be too old for next year, such as the same old celebrity death one-liners and the US elections, when it’s the songs with the stronger refrains that sum up January of any year, such as Atherton’s incredibly accurate version of ‘dry January’ (trust me, I know), along with a song about the many different diets people try (‘Whey Oh, Paleo!’).

Despite the restricted timing January: A Musical Revue can be performed in the year, it provides a joyous hour away from the aftermath of 2016, back-to-work blues and, especially right now, the T word. See you next January then?

Reviewed by Barry O’Reilly