REVIEW: [title of show] (Above the Stag Theatre) ★★★

Have you ever looked at a finished piece of creative work and wondered how much time was spent in creating it, from seedling stage to unveiling? In [title of show] four of New York’s finest undiscovered talents come together to do just that: bring a brand new play to the infamous streets of Broadway. Playwright Hunter (Michael Vinsen) has a brain full of ideas and composer Jeff (Jordan Fox) is there to help him breathe life into this musical theatre piece. Actors Heidi (Kirby Hughes) and Susan (Natalie Williams) are the main faces of the show, and together they document the weeks and months’ worth of editing, trialling different creative ideas and struggles of trying to be recognised as worthy for the big stage.

Unfortunately there are a few sticking points for me when it comes to how the script engages with the audience. Being set in America, there are several cultural references that don’t quite translate – I picked up most of them due to having roots in the U.S., but it was evident that several of the jokes fell flat with my my co-watchers (the silence after a few one-liners was a bit awkward). The show had an alienating effect due to this, which is a shame.

Whilst some may call it ‘quirky’, the ‘vampire song’ was very drawn out, with members of the audience looking impatient for it to end. This scene may not have felt as displaced if it had a clearer introduction, but unfortunately some scenes like this were more baffling than entertaining, and left the audience trailing behind. There is a strong need for some polishing of this production, due to disappointing incidents of slow lighting changes, the fluffing of lines in more than one scene, and dropping the ball on the East side accent a few times (all forgivable but noticeable).

An aspect that may fall favourably with audiences is how ‘Will and Grace’ this production feels – which can only be a magnificent thing, due to the huge success of the late 90’s sitcom. The excellent live pianist, loveable personalities of the characters and the make-it-or-break-it New York gritty setting – all very immersive and enjoyable. The actors are well cast, with Kirby Hughes’ operatic voice adding something truly special. The performance is very lively, leaving – overall – a heartwarming effect as the lights go up.

A talented cast of actors well-suited for a piece of comedic musical theatre, some moments of comedy prowess and offering an interesting look into the creative writing process and its many struggles. However, the script is problematic; fast-paced in the wrong areas, quirky to the point of impatience and a need for a smoother transatlantic delivery. Entertaining in parts, but may leave a few viewers underwhelmed.

Reviewed by Laura Evans


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