It is a rare occasion when, on writing a review, I fail to take any notes during the performance. Sometimes, (I am ashamed to say) it is due to the fact that unfortunately, I have nodded off. But during this week’s production of Bare, at the Greenwich Theatre, my lack of illegible scribblings can only be evidence of the show’s success in garnering my full and unwavering attention. I was very pleasantly surprised: the production made me laugh, and almost made me cry, with numbers like “Are you there”, “Best kept secret” and “See me” touching the heartstrings.
Bare first premiered in 2000 in Los Angeles, and since then has toured in over 100 countries. Its Greenwich Theatre run follows a European premiere of the show at the Union Theatre in April.
Bare tells the story of a group of teenage students at a Catholic boarding school in Massachusetts. In particular, we hear the tale of two star-crossed lovers: Jason (Ross Wild) and Peter (Michael Vinsen), and their struggle with their feelings for each other amid others’ disapproval and narrow-mindedness. But other contemporary themes are also raised: drug use, teen pregnancy, and self-deprecation. A key message, however, is the potential harm caused when misguided religious teaching is used to place a religious and moral stamp of disapproval and inequality on the lives of homosexuals.
The challenges of the teenagers are mirrored by (and in some way based upon) Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. During Bare, the students put on their own version of the play, with the Bard’s words cleverly translated into song. Jason’s increasing disorientation due to his own drug use during the ‘Queen Mab’ speech is chilling, and effectively staged and written.
The current incarnation of the production is slick, pulsating and a real showcase of young talent. Although officially called a rock musical, Bare’s score has even more to offer, with Gospel alongside contemporary ballads and Jason Robert Brown-esque rhythmically challenging pop-rock. The cast takes on the vocal challenges with ease: fantastic leads Ross Wild and Michael Vinsen bring excellent vocals and great credibility to their tortured yet highly loveable roles. Claudia Kariuki, as Sister Chantelle is lively and witty with a formidable gospel voice, particularly shining in “God don’t make no trash”, and young actors Jodie Steele and Molly Stewart as Ivy and Nadia very much hold their own as exciting new musical theatre talent.
Directed by Paul Taylor-Mills, whose credits include Off-West End productions of Little Shop of Horrors, My Big Gay Italian Wedding, The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, Steel Pier and Rent, the production is billed as ‘Provocative, raw, and unyielding in its exploration of how today’s generation navigates the tightrope between adolescence and adulthood.’
Bare ‘examines the consequences of baring a soul, or hiding it from those who matter most.’ With music by Damon Intrabartolo, lyrics by John Hartmere and a book by Intrabartolo and Hartmere, Bare features choreography by Racky Plews, design by David Shields and casting by Will Burton.
The musical plays at Greenwich Theatre until 27th October.
Review by Emma Slater
BARE THE ROCK MUSICAL
A contemporary rock musical, BARE is the electrifying story of a group of students navigating their way through a journey of teenage self-discovery, wrestling with identity, sexuality, and religion at a co-ed Catholic boarding school. Provocative, raw, and unyielding in its exploration of how today’s generation navigates the tightrope between adolescence and adulthood, BARE examines the consequences of baring a soul, or hiding it from those who matter most. With a pulsating rock score, BARE is a powerful story of youth and rebellion you will never forget.
CAST: Ross Wild and Michael Vinsen will return to the roles of Jason and Peter, alongside Jodie Steele as Ivy, Molly Stewart as Nadia, Luke Baker as Matt, Nadine Cox as Claire, Christopher Dickens as Priest, Gary Lee Netley as Lucas, Lauren Rae as Tanya, Jemma Geanaus as Kyra, Tash Holway as Diane, Ashley Andrews as Rory, David Albury as Zack and Adam Bailey as Alan. The cast also includes Ashley Gilmour, Daniel Hope, Charlotte Jeffery, Annie Kitchen and Alison Pope. (Please note – for the final 5 performances the role of Jason will be played by Ashley Gilmour.) For further information and ticket booking visit www.greenwichtheatre.org.uk
Thursday 24th October 2013