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Review: Little by Little at the Etcetera Theatre

Little By Little
Little By Little

It’s a well-drilled production, this: a reasonably busy set (Russo Rainaldi) combines with some sprightly and energetic choreography (Becky Harrison) in a relatively confined performance space. There have been shows with considerably more room to manoeuvre that have had bits of set and props knocked into – here, everything retains its rightful place, and I found it quite remarkable that, with all the vigour this American musical gives demands of its characters, a balance was both struck and maintained between pathos and romantic comedy.

That there is as much laughter as there is sadness in this single-act show means there is (almost) something for everyone. As Man (Guido Garcia), Woman 1 (Susannah Gidley) and Woman 2 (Charlotte Shaw) come of age (the show starts with them being best friends at school), the challenges they face are invariably first world problems. Whilst I did momentarily wonder if the show might as well be called Get A Life, this does not stop the production from being intriguing, as the characters are all well-developed. A minor quibble, and one which the show addresses within the first musical number – why aren’t the characters given ‘actual’ names? It only adds to the rather generic feel of the musical, which deals with highly recognisable and near-universal themes of, as the programme puts it, “mates, dates and love triangles”.

The pre-show music for this production reflects the era in which the action begins: chart music from the Nineties, including songs made famous by the Spice Girls and the Backstreet Boys. The show does well to articulate the mixed emotions and feelings of teenagers, and when the time comes, of young adults – I trust it is hardly a spoiler to reveal that life doesn’t exactly get easier with age and experience.

Almost all of the show is sung through – I found it interesting that one of the most impactful moments in this musical came during a rare section of spoken word, a bit of a showdown between the three characters as previous events come out in the wash. Woman 2 found herself covering up for both of the other two, separately, and (at the time) in confidence. As is often the case with storylines of this nature, it becomes difficult to know who really is to blame for their friendship becoming so fraught, and nobody comes out untainted. As is also common with plotlines like this, everything would have been considerably simpler if only the truth had been told from the start.

Then again, withholding information and the consequences of doing so make for riveting viewing than everyone just being heartily co-operative throughout. With Man and Woman 1 biting each other’s faces off in the way young lovers do, Woman 2 is left with the ‘I wish’ musical number, and it’s one of those Broadway-style belters. With just the one musical instrument (Samuel Wilson on keyboards), the unamplified voices travel well in what is, in any event, one of London’s smallest theatres.

Some little asides contained in the musical numbers provide an added layer of humour, and there is some poignancy in the more reflective numbers when the characters have a moment to stop and think. A business dinner, though we only hear Man and Woman 2’s sides of the conversation, clearly gets awkward. A happy ending is perhaps inevitable and predictable, but at least provides some closure. All things considered, this is a witty and engaging musical.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

The off-Broadway musical, with music by Brad Ross and lyrics by Ellen Greenfield and Half Hackady is about mates, dates and love triangles. This fully sung-through show follows the lives of three childhood friends as they grow up together (and apart!), facing the harsh and hilarious realities of life and love. Friendship, lovers, enemies – navigating growing up can be very hard.

Three Barks and a Bite is a production company established in 2018 by Guido Garcia, Susannah Gidley, Charlotte Shaw and Matt Strachan, looking to perform interesting, challenging and lesser- known works in and around London. Three Barks and a Bite is excited to bring Little by Little to London audiences following its success off-Broadway.

Twitter: @BarksBite
Facebook: Three Barks and a Bite
Instagram: Threebarksandabite

Etcetera Theatre
265 Camden High Street
London NW1 7BU
Booking to 30th September 2018


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