Review by: ★★★★★ All That Dazzles
Over the course of the year, Lambert Jackson have triumphed in bringing a variety of shows that have rarely or never been performed in the UK for high quality virtual productions. Recent shows have included First Date and their seemingly unstoppable version of Songs For A New World.
Their latest production is [title of show] – a meta musical by Jeff Bowen and Hunter Ball that played off Broadway in 2006 but has yet to make it over the pond. This is a musical about making a musical – the very musical that played off Broadway. If that sounds too confusing a concept, think of this as the musical theatre version of ‘Inception’ and that will confuse you even more.
The show tells the story of Jeff and Hunter, two struggling writers who recruit two actress friends to put together a brand new musical to be showcased at the New York Musical Theatre Festival in three weeks. The true story makes this as authentic as it comes and the brilliant use of a chorus rehearsal room in the London Coliseum makes you feel like you are watching the drama unfold in real time.
This show really is a love letter to Broadway and theatre in general with brilliant musical theatre references littered across the dialogue all the way through while the walls are covered in Playbills (Further fuelling the inception theme as Tyrone Huntley and Lucie Jones perform in front of Jesus Christ Superstar and Waitress playbills). Whether you have ever worked in theatre or are just a fan of theatre (and if you are reading this, I suspect you probably are) you are going to grin from ear to ear at the constant references to Bernadette Peters, Chess and Mamma Mia. There’s even a bit of Paris Hilton thrown in for good measure… but nobody’s perfect.
One of the funniest and most brilliant theatre references is a rolling list to how many musicals have been adapted from famous movies and how difficult it is to create an original musical – a conversation you will regularly see on musical theatre groups on social media.
The dialogue flows perfectly with some brilliantly landed jokes. From the opening message describing fans of the shows of “Tossers”, the humour comes thick and fast from start to finish making this comedy gold. There’s even a very sweary sock puppet at one part of the show – something we can all agree never fails to improve a show.
On to the talent and what a talented bunch they are. Jeff and Hunter are played by Marc Elliot and Tyrone Huntley as the two writers. Their actress friends Heidi and Susan are played by Lucie Jones and Jenna Russell – two incredible actresses who relish in the opportunity to play such genuine and hilarious characters. A special mention has to go to the insanely talented Lucie Jones who showcases her massive range and enjoys one of the standout numbers in the show, ‘A Way Back To Then’. The four of them not only deliver amazing vocals but also flawless harmonies throughout.
The use of the rehearsal room at the Coliseum provides a brilliant setting with a clever use of post it notes all over the walls, foreshadowing moments from the show – most of which are yet to happen on screen (Again sounding like a Christopher Nolan movie). While the action takes place in the same setting, it never gets tiring as the actors on screen provide the scene never becomes dull. Though you do long for them to barge their way through to the main stage in the Coliseum to give us the finale and closure they so desperately deserve.
As the show was written in real time and updated to reflect the change from conception to off Broadway, there is the sense the show is unfinished and incomplete. Though that seems very much deliberate considering the fact it did eventually make its way to Broadway. That adds to the charm of this lovely and hilarious little show.
Ultimately this is a story of creators trying to prove their relevance in an industry that is so hard to succeed it in. The authenticity of the story is what makes it so captivarting and ultimately what wins the audience over. Through the constant jokes is a story with heart and five characters (We mustn’t forget Larry) who you can’t help but fall in love with over the course of the show.
This is yet another triumph for Lambert Jackson Productions, showcasing four of the greatest talents the West End has to offer and yet again proving how adaptable everybody in the industry is to continue creating amazing content as theatres continue to open and close their doors again depending on the ever-changing rules.
If you are a theatre fan, do yourself a favour and watch this show. You are sure to fall in love. And who knows? Maybe this could follow in Songs For A New World’s footsteps and make it to a West End stage in the near future?