No pressure but, a musical that has been described as ‘one of the best Off-Broadway scores of all time has certainly got a lot to live up to. Luckily for the audience the new production of “I Sing!” at the Drayton Arms really delivers.
New York is the place where five young adults are about to go through traumatic times in their complicated lives. Heidi (Malindi Freeman) and Nicky (Steffan Lloyd-Evans) live together in their small apartment where they have been ‘temporarily’ joined by Nicky’s old college buddy Alan (Daniel Mack Shand) who needed a place to live following the break-up of his relationship. Not that far away, ‘trust fund boy’ Charlie (Louie Westwood) shares his loft apartment with his best friend, fun loving city girl Pepper (Eleanor Sandars). So, everything in the New York garden is pretty rosy you might think? Ah, would that were the truth.
Like most people, our five protagonists have their own inner demons and issues to deal with. Although on the surface, they are a great couple, Nicky and Heidi really aren’t that happy. Heidi, is almost a Stepford Wife type of girlfriend, who will do anything to get that spark of real commitment from Nicky. He, of course, has his own issues – which he has difficulty sharing with others. Emotionally aloof and seemingly cold, driven by both work and a strong desire not to end up like his father, Nicky has trouble fully committing to his relationship. The two of them are not really helped by having the proverbial ‘third wheel’ in the apartment in the shape of Alan, who is harbouring a secret of his own – one that, if revealed, could tear all three of their worlds apart. In the other apartment, Charlie should be very happy. He is a single, financially well off young gay man with no commitments and living with his best, fun ‘fruit fly’ Pepper. Unfortunately, Charlie believes he is developing feelings for Pepper which are causing him to question his sexual identity and could potentially ruin what has been a superb friendship. Pepper for her part is coming to the realisation that one day everyone has to become an adult and you can’t necessarily go through life relying on looks to get what you want. So, we have five young people whose lives come together in a variety of ways, changing their perception of themselves and the world around them. In order to survive, each of them will have to confront their fears and insecurities and question what they really want before moving on to the next phase of their respective lives.
I have to say, I have no idea why it has taken ten years for “I Sing!” to return to the UK as it’s such as great show. Written by Sam Forman (book and lyrics), Eli Bolin (composer) and Benjamin Salka (book) “I Sing!” is a lovely musical journey through the lives of our five New Yorkers that combines deep emotional songs with some highly amusing numbers to really deliver a great evening’s entertainment. This production, under Director Glenn Gaunt is deceptively simple in its staging – just five white chairs and a keyboard manned by Musical Director Daniel Jarvis. But the staging, along with some pretty nimble lighting, works fantastically in bringing the show to life. The story itself is quite deep. Each of the characters is coming to terms with what it means to be an adult (something that has alluded me for years) and there is an overarching feeling that fathers – whether their own or other people’s – are a predominant part of everyone’s problems.
Moving to the cast, I have to say they were superb both individually and together. The score covers many different musical styles and requires a great range from the actors to deliver it. This is particularly true of the opening to the second act ‘It’s Just a Little Awkward’ which requires both individual and ensemble singing along with some quite eye opening acting. Without giving too much away, it would be so easy to overdo this song, and negatively affect the rest of the act, but nobody did – even Daniel who, as Alan, did something I can honestly say I have never seen before on a stage – and the audience responded accordingly. Speaking of Alan, he was my number one character with a wonderful storyline and also sang my favourite song of the thirty in the show ‘What Alan Likes’ which I think really spoke to a lot of single people in the audience. Of all of the characters, Alan was the one that I really hoped got a happy ending out of his adventures.
Overall then, “I Sing!” thanks to a great combination of book, music, direction and actors, is a wonderful night of musical theatre in its purest and most awesome form and, whilst on a limited run this time, should not have to wait another ten years before delighting London’s audiences once more.
Review by Terry Eastham
“One of the 50 best off-broadway scores of all time”
Music by Eli Bolin, Lyrics by Sam Formam, Book by Eli Bolin, Sam Forman & Benjamin Salka
I Sing comes to London this summer for a limited run of 5 performances at The Drayton Arms Theatre on the 13th, 14th, 19th 20th & 21st July at 8pm.
A musical about coming of age in New York City, a hilarious, honest and heart warming musical that centres around five people learning about who they are, love, loss, sex and friendship.
There’s the supposed happy couple, the best friend with a secret crush, the fun loving single city girl and her gay best friend questioning his sexuality. All the characters intertwine and as one character says “everyone knows everyone where ever you go, New York’s the biggest little town I know”
Alan is a Jewish boy who tried his hand at showbiz and failed. He recently broke up with his girlfriend and is staying with his friends Nick and Heidi, who he is secretly in love with.
Heidi is the perfect girlfriend but wants more from her stubborn and aloof boyfriend Nick. She’s a real daddy’s girl with body issues and turns to Alan for comfort when her relationship fails and father falls ill.
Nicky is your typical macho guy who loves Heidi but is scared of commitment and bails on the relationship to have a fling with the sex loving hot bar girl Pepper. He has daddy issues and finds it hard to accept he needs to grow up and be and Pepper is the fun loving, sex fuelled, single city girl. She has worked every job from a temp worker to bar girl, to cage dancer and more. She lives with her gay best friend Charlie and uses her body and sexuality to get what she wants in life when deep down she really seeks love.
And Charlie is a single gay guy struggling with his sexuality and thinking he has feelings for his best friend Pepper. He is a trust fund kid and struggles to make real relationships and come to terms with who he really is.
I sing! Is a roller-coaster journey of fun, hilarity and laughs with songs about awkward sex situations, self image issues, and drinking games. But also a heartfelt reflection of relatable issues such as loss, relationship problems, and fear of not finding love.
Cast & Creatives:
Director – Glenn Gaunt (@GlennGaunt)
MD – Daniel Jarvis (@DanJarvis_music)
Producer – Jason Rodger (@jason_rodger)
Company – SR Productions
Designer – Michael Long
Cast: (left to right)
Heidi – Malindi Freeman (@malindi_freeman)
Pepper – Eleanor Sandars (@Ellie_Sandars)
Nicky – Steffan Lloyd-Evans (@slloydevans)
Charlie – Louie Westwood (@louiewestwood92)
Alan – Daniel Mack Shand (@dannymack88)
The Drayton Arms Theatre
13th, 14th, 19th 20th & 21st July at 8pm.
Wednesday 15th July 2015