Five microphones and music stands, a coat rack and assorted instruments. That’s all we see on the stage for the concert version of Julie: The Musical. Written and directed by Abey Bradbury, this gig performance is part of Tania Azevedo’s guest artist directorship at the King’s Head Theatre’s MT Pride Lab.
Chaotic and defiant.
Bradbury’s musical follows the story of Julie D’Aubigny (Sam Kearney), a notorious opera singer from the 17th century whose career and personal life were the subject of French court gossip, something that is clearly reflected in the musical numbers throughout this performance. Interspersed between thinly-veiled sarcasm, mockery and biting commentary, are character-driven songs that introduce us to the important figures in Julie’s story, which provide a colourful introduction and insight to the opera singer's life.
Even though this version of Julie: The Musical only stages the songs for us, it’s hard to imagine what else the musical needs, for the score speaks for itself. The songs are incredibly strong to the point of catchiness, in the way that we can almost imagine ourselves dancing along to. Bradbury has given Julie d’Aubigney the Six treatment, and even as a concert that doesn’t have the usual musical theatre embellishments, it doesn’t seem like it’s missing anything, especially considering the actor-muso format that it's in. As it stands, Julie: The Musical is perfect for the kind of show that it, making it very difficult to find points for improvement or development.
The cast have a skilled command of their roles and instruments, navigating the pop tropes that each of the songs use and delivering entertaining characters alongside their self-accompaniment. In the relaxed atmosphere of the concert, they take the chance to interact with us, taking their performances a step further with improvisation. The range of their musical ability is truly impressive. Kearney’s chaotic and defiant attitude is in step with the atmosphere created during this concert. It's a fun constant throughout their performance, providing much entertainment and humour as they detail Julie’s exploits.
If this concert staging is anything to go by, Julie: The Musical appears to be a celebration of love and the strength of pursuing it against a current of societal pressure and norms. This concert performance of Julie: The Musical is a spectacular bite-size advertisement, a snippet of a musical that promises to be a big hit.