People are odd. I think I can safely say this without fear of contradiction. And although often, people react to certain events in a fairly predictable way, sometimes someone will do something that, to them, seems perfectly logical but to anyone else is sheer madness. Such is the central concept of Out There currently running at the Union Theatre.
Its 1969 and following the death of his wife, Hope (Thea Jo Wolfe), Astronaut Newman Carter (Shane Gibb) has disappeared. Newman seemed to have everything going for him. He was about to go into space as Mission Commander and he had a young son called David, who worshipped him. But now, Newman, has vanished and his son is being brought up by Newman’s sister, Celia (Jodie Conrad). Jump forward forty years and David (Neil Moors) has grown up to be a highly successful businessman. He has a son of his own, Logan (Luke Street) but unfortunately, the two of them don’t get on. Logan is a bit of a tearaway and has only managed to escape jail thanks to David’s lawyer, and confidant, Linda (Melissa Bayern. Having finally gone too far, Logan runs away and Celia tells him to go to a particular farm outside the town of Hope, Texas and meet the farm owner Ned Thomas (Dave Willetts). On his way there, Logan meets the residents of the town including the town mechanic Jamie (Imelda Warren-Green), her mother, Sheriff Pack (Melissa Veszi) and the sheriff’s rather inept sidekicks Billy (Adam Pettit) and Stan (Rhys Owen). The town of Hope is dying on its feet and everyone wonders what can be done to save it. Maybe Logan, with a little help from old Ned – a man who can keep a secret or two – can rescue the town and become a better person along the way.
Now, if you have noticed the star rating, you will be thinking that this is not necessarily going to be a very positive review of Out There, and I’m afraid you would be right. To start with, the book by Elliott Davis and James Bourne, really doesn’t work. This is a very predictable piece of writing where every musical theatre cliche is thrown into the pot. The characters are very one dimensional, not able to see the obvious directly in front of them – unlike the audience – so, you have a pair of bumbling henchmen, one stupid, one smart. You have a corrupt town official. There is the successful woman who has fallen in love with the boss, who doesn’t notice – despite her doing everything except proposing to him herself. If the characters lack a certain something, then the whole story just fails to sparkle. Some of the dialogue is just trying too hard to raise a laugh. For example, “we only have two horses in this town”, “I had to shoot Lucky”, “well, we really are a one-horse town then”. Some of the musical numbers worked – for example the song ‘Learn to Dance’ was really lovely, but there was a certain amount of repetition in the songs so that the second act seemed to virtually consist of one song all the way through it.
Turning to the production, Director Michael Burgen, hasn’t done a bad job of staging this show, though I’m not really sure why the seating was arranged on two sides – which at times led to a lot of swift head turning by the audience – as opposed to the standard layout. One thing I would say is that small theatres with intimate spaces are unforgiving and attention to detail is a must. A Sheriff should have a badge, millionaire businessmen wear neatly pressed shirts, not ones that look as if they have just come out of the packet, Townspeople going to a dance to impress the CEO of a big conglomerate would dress up for it and, if you are going to hold up a sheet of paper that is supposed to be a report two foot from the audience, at least have something typed or written on it. Having said that, there were two parts that really stood out for me in the first act. The first was the numbers ‘Who the Hell Do You Think You are” and “Space” which really established the Character of Logan – who really knows how to work an office chair – and his relationship with everyone around him. And the second was the staging of ‘Learn the Dance’ in Act I which was superbly done and quite emotional to watch.
Moving on to the cast, and I have to say that they were pretty good. Even without microphones, they came across well and virtually all of them had really good voices. There were moments of sheer genius and I really thought the relationship between Ned and Logan was fantastic and there was a lovely chemistry between Dave Willetts and Luke Street that shone through the production. These were definitely the two strongest both as characters and actors and I would have loved to have seen more of them, together with Melinda Warren-Green’s girly, but takes no bull from anyone, Jamie thrown in as well.
So, to sum up. I’m afraid that for me, Out There didn’t really work for me. Whilst there were a couple of good numbers and some superb acting at times. The whole thing felt rather predictable. I actually feel bad writing this because it was obvious how much had gone into bringing the show to life but, for me at least, it just didn’t do it.
Review by Terry Eastham
A New Musical by Elliot Davis & James Bourne
From Wednesday 21st September- Saturday 8th October 2016
Directed by Michael Burgen, Musical Direction by Joe Louis Robinson, Choreography by Lisa Mathieson, Lighting Design by Iain Dennis, Set Designs by Nik Corrall, Costume Design Zoe Engerer, Produced by Sasha Regan.
Newman Carter, a world famous astronaut mysteriously disappears in 1969. Forty years later, a troubled young man turns up on his doorstep with a letter that changes everything for everyone.
OUT THERE is an original tale crossing three generations; sons, fathers and grandfathers. This heart-felt story with its country-inspired score is created by JAMES BOURNE and ELLIOT DAVIS- the team behind the musical LOSERVILLE.
21st September – 8th October 2016
TIMESTuesday to Saturday @ 7.30pm
Saturday and Sunday @ 2.30pm