Andrew Lippa writes: “… the story of Jen and her relationships with the two Johns of her life: her younger brother, who was killed in Vietnam, and his namesake, her son who is trying to find his way in a confusing world.”
The piece is traditionally performed by two actors; the male playing John the brother and the son, and the female playing Jen as the sister and the mother she grows up to become. No change in this as Ross Hunter was cast as John, and Cassidy Janson as Jen.
The concert was presented nicely as two short acts.
Act 1 saw the relationship of a brother and sister play out through the years, as both of the characters evolved before my eyes, each presenting the ages from childhood to teenager, to young adult. Cassidy and Ross were very believable in all ages they played, endearing myself and the audience to both characters for different reasons.
The music has some lovely melodies and it was very easy to get caught up with John and Jen’s emotions as they both played out the highs and lows, and the love and hate, in their complex sibling relationship while both growing older with different focuses in life. Although I have not seen the full version to compare, the story carried very well, and was easy to follow even in concert format with some of the score having been cut.
Act 1 ends suddenly with the death of John at war. Some of the audience who didn’t know the format were left wondering if this act meant the end of Ross Hunter’s part in the show, but as he came back everyone soon realised he was now playing the son. Having the same actor helped to mirror and emphasise the similarities that Jen was placing on her son and namesake of her brother.
Cassidy’s transition from the 13-year-old girl we saw in the start to the frantic parent worried about losing the second John in her life was very moving.
To hear Ross sing this music was such a treat as the last few years I have only been able to hear him sing in rock musicals. He has such a soft soulful voice and it appears can sing just as well in any genre.
Overall a very moving and cute performance and I have come away wanting to see this show again – maybe a staged version. Two top class West End stars who I would love to see back in the West End in permanent leading roles as soon as possible.
Review by Bonnie Britain and Noor Abdul Samad
John and Jen starring Cassidy Janson and Ross Hunter
John and Jen was the final concert from New Bard Productions Ltd in their first season at The Delfont Room, Prince of Wales Theatre. With musical direction by Simon Lambert, at 11pm on Friday 7th November 2014. Composed by Andrew Lippa, with lyrics by Tom Greenwald. John and Jen was presented by arrangement with Josef Weinberger Ltd on behalf of Music Theatre International of New York.
Saturday 8th November 2014