Narrative direction is hard to achieve but is essential to a good musical. Most of the problems with this show can be attributed to a lack of it.
Cashmere tried to cram in multiple messages as well as maintain a clichéd love story and it is all the worse for that.
While sold as a dark look at the cosmetics industry, Cashmere is really a story about relationships. Though partly about a comically evil cosmetics company called Sedièrre, it’s mostly about a love triangle between the head of that corporation, her fiancée, and her fiancée’s ex-boyfriend. Right off the bat, this feels unnatural because there’s no chemistry between any of the actors who are meant to be clamoring for each other’s affections.
However, it is the disconnection between the love triangle and the corporate narrative which kills any sense of unity in this show. This latter piece, which is about a group of interns investigating Sedièrre’s illegal activities, invests in music and aesthetics that feel empty, rather than emotional. This is further amplified by the absurdity of Sedièrre’s actions: the major reveal that the company has been kidnapping interns to perform illegal cosmetic experiments on them feels like it belongs in an episode of Adam West’s Batman rather than a dark, serious musical.
There are also technical issues, insofar as I could not hear a significant portion of the lyrics. Any song with significant use of percussion drowned out the voices of the actors to such a degree that for much of the time I felt absolutely lost as to what was happening in the story. The use of a live band adds a lot of energy to the performance of a musical, but in return you need either to use microphones or to be sure your actors can be heard over them; in this case, the band was often out of time and out of tune which affected the rhythm of what vocals I could hear as well as the choreography.
Shows often feel a need to make an impression at the Fringe, and one way to do that is by putting in a message that is unique. Cashmere tried to cram in multiple messages as well as maintain a clichéd love story and it is all the worse for that. It tried to be both cold and compelling, as well as warm and loving. A show can have both, but this one did not.