REVIEW: JOHN & JEN (Union Theatre) ★★★

john-and-jen-london-8Andrew Lippa’s 1995 musical John & Jen has come to London for a short run at the Union Theatre, following a successful engagement at the Lantern Theatre in Liverpool earlier this year.

John & Jen tells the story of a brother and sister, growing up in an abusive household. They are best friends and swear to always be there for each other. As they get older, things change. Jen goes off to college and John joins the army. The second half of the show sees Jen as a mother and explores her relationship with her son John who she named after her brother. It is a story of relationships and how they develop, grow and sometimes fall apart. It is a simple story and not particularly exciting or original but the simplicity of it means that is relatable to people of all ages.

James Lacey is adorable as the bright eyed child John, bouncing around the stage with a real zest for life. He perfectly encapsulates the essence of what it is to be a child and is a joy to watch. Sharon Byatt plays Jen, as both the sister in the first half and the mother in the second. She switches between age ranges well and the two actors have a great rapport.

I was delighted to finally get to the brand new Union Theatre to see this show after I missed its first production The Fix last month. Sasha Regan has done a wonderful job creating this new space, directly opposite the old venue which had been much loved over the years by theatregoers. The space is fresh and clean and manages to retain the same intimate feel of the old venue, a real community vibe.

Andrew Lippa has written some great shows over the years. From The Wild Party to The Addams Family, his music is loved around the world. His 1995 musical John & Jen is sadly not his greatest work but Multitude of Drops Theatricals have done a noteworthy job of making it the best show possible at the brand new Union Theatre space.

Reviewed by West End Wilma

John & Jen plays at the Union Theatre until 17 September 2016