When critiquing a musical about the difficulties of being a performer, there’s nothing to do but write a review about the difficulties of being a critic. Buckle up, it’s showtime.
They take you through the many stages of being an actor with humour, realism and a genuine appreciation of the craft.
First, you request a show—maybe you’ve heard of it, maybe you haven’t, but you must have chosen it for some good reason. Possibly the title, I Wish My Life Were Like a Musical, caught your eye because it’s a sentiment you have shared ever since your dad took you to see Wicked on the West End in 2007.
The room is packed, everyone's a little sweaty and the woman next to you apologises for elbowing you while taking off her jacket. A man sits on stage behind an electric piano. You can only assume he is part of the show. The usher reminds people one more time to fill in all the seats because it’s a sellout, before closing the door and leaving you to your fate. Lights dim, the first few notes hang in the air and our esteemed cast appears.
Within the first few minutes you’ve caught references to Oklahoma, Fiddler on the Roof, and The Book of Mormon, been casually insulted by the performers, and participated in the first roaring laugh of the show. They’re off swinging! The cast of James Hume, Felix Mosse, Charlotte O’Rourke and Charlotte Anne Steen is remarkable. They take you through the many stages of being an actor with humour, realism and a genuine appreciation of the craft.
Alexander S. Bermange, composer/lyricist, Musical Director and pianist, keeps the energy flowing as the sole member of a live band, and fills in as the unreasonable show manager when necessary. You keep thinking you know these songs already, but that’s just because Bermange has playfully borrowed from some of his favourite musical themes in creating these original numbers.
Hume sounds like he should be reciting (or singing) Shakespeare, so you’re not surprised when he performs a solo about his character’s desire to be a “respected, serious actor”. O’Rourke’s strength is her ability to ping-pong through different singing styles, key changes and personalities without breaking a sweat (although you feel tired on her behalf). Steen is empowering, and a little scary, when she finally lands a leading role and goes full Diva. Mosse breaks your heart with his soft ballad about being a stand-in, spending his whole life waiting for the star to call in sick (or die).
After 55 minutes of thespian despair, you get an inspirational closing number about making magic that forces you to reconsider your own life choices. Either these people truly love showbiz or they’re very good at acting like they do—which amounts to the same thing. The show ends too soon, despite one last number (because they “can’t leave without an encore”). Then you politely wait for what feels like the entire room to file out before you make it to the door. You spot Mosse on stage helping to disassemble the limited props. You call out, “You were amazing.” He responds, “You’re amazing.” You don’t disagree.
Another ending to another show. But what a show.