Tag Archives: New Musicals

Daybreak – at the Tristan Bates Theatre until June 30th 2012

Image provided by Notion Theatre Company

The Tristan Bates is one of my favourite spots in London – a tiny theatre tucked into the Actors’ Centre, it manages to be intimate and feel like a real find whilst being situated right in the thick of theatreland, between Cambridge Circus and Seven Dials.

Notion Theatre have impressed me before, I was a massive fan of their debut production of Edges last year at The Landor and the innovative colourful set, fresh faced and talented performers were trademarks that both shows had in common. Good use was made of the space and the vocals were top notch.

This was a European premiere of the new musical Daybreak, in which the stories of two couples of consecutive generations in one house are insterspersed. The protagonist is Dylan, and we discover some home truths about his own marriage and that of his parents. It’s an interesting concept, but some of the more unbelievable aspects of the structure as the generations communicate make it feel slightly awkward. It’s sad because so many elements of this production are successful, but these more challenging aspects are not convincing – creating hurdles to building up any real connection between the audience and the characters. I found myself appreciating the production but not really rooting for anyone. I didn’t come away from the final song feeling particularly satisfied or uplifted, and despite the show being in my favourite format of 90-minutes-no-interval, it didn’t feel snappy.

So, worth a look to see a new production and some promising talent, however I don’t think that this musical will be the next big thing. The search continues!

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Avenue Q – touring the UK & Ireland until 28th July 2012

Ed Judge (Brian), Nicky, Matt Henry (Gary), Sam Lupton (Princeton). Photo credit Nick Spratling

After nine years, two UK tours, countless cast changes and entry into the mainstream, Avenue Q has lost none of its knowing charm and insightful wit.

First, a quick confession – this was my third trip to see Avenue Q, and I was a little worried. I’ve loved this show and raved about it for years. Going back to a beloved piece is always tinged with slight trepidation for me – on the one hand, it’s great to see an ‘old friend,’ but on the other there’s always the risk that one won’t find the jokes as funny, the production won’t be as slick and the content has become somewhat tired… I should probably save my fretting for more important issues, but hey, that’s just me.

The first time I saw it (like many in the audience even today) I had no real idea what I was in for. It was my 22nd birthday and, back from uni, I’d gone as a treat with my parents. I still squirm when I remember sitting with my mother to my left and father to my right as two muppets had rampant sex on stage to the song ‘You can be as loud as the hell you want when you’re making love’. Where does one look in such a situation?!

Trekkie Monster. Photo credit - Nick Spratling

Despite this discomfort though, I was hooked. This musical happily skips over most of the problems and controversies of Generation Y, breezing through love, porn, homosexuality, racism and how on earth one pays the bills with a BA in English with a lightness of touch that is quite masterful.

The use of puppets disarms the audience and allows them to listen to the songs rather than making judgements on the characters (I’m sure that if Trekkie Monster was a lonely human recluse rather than a furry Sesame Street reject,’The Internet is for Porn’ would make far more uncomfortable viewing…).

Whilst I was concerned that it all may seem a little dated now, I left the theatre last night convinced that this show can stand the test of time. Yes, we all get less shockable by the day but this show has survived because it has real heart – ‘A Fine, Fine Line‘ still had me nearly in tears and the Bad Idea Bears’ mischievous devil-on-your-shoulder ways was an the element that I started to appreciate more on viewing number three.

Katharine Moraz as Lucy the Slut Photo credit Nick Spratling

I read an article this morning on re-reading your favourite books, and it mentioned how the best books grow with you – reading The Great Gatsby, for example, is a totally different experience when done aged 25 than at age 50. Though I’ve only got from 22 to 27 since my ‘Avenue Q enlightenment,’ different parts of it seem more relevant now, and the fact that the first time I saw it one line (since updated) was “George Bush is only for now,” shows that the world has changed a fair bit since then too.

This production certainly does Avenue Q justice. Timing and vocals are great from a scarily young cast (the two leads Sam Lupton and Katharine Moraz are only 21 and 23 respectively), the set seems almost entirely unchanged from the London incarnation, and the book is so snappy that to the casual observer there seems to be very little room for major directorial changes anyhow (though I’m sure those who have been behind the scenes would beg to differ). Recommended to one and all – even my parents remember it with fondness.

Long live Avenue Q!

Avenue Q is now touring the UK, click here for tour dates near you.

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