At first glance The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland's two collaborative productions with the American Music Theatre Project may seem remarkably similar to last year's pair. Two tales of the journey between Scotland and America, bridging the gap between the nations in a manner similar to the collaborative nature of their creation. However, whereas last year's efforts excelled in musicality but stumbled in originality, Legacy: The Book Of Names is a near-perfect tearjerker of a musical with an overabundance of incredible talent both on and off-stage.
A simple but staggering surprise of considerable beauty and talent.
The Book Of Names, one of two shows under the 'Legacy' branding in this collaboration, tells the story of a group of immigrants travelling from around the world to come to America for what they perceive to be a better life. Splitting up into solos, pairs and trios, the bustling crowd tell individual stories of love, loss and hope for the future before being brought together once again for the big finale. It is not the originality of the story that gives it power as many of the individual elements play heavily on familiar immigration story tropes, but it is the simplicity and exuberance with which these stories are told that elevates them to greatness. A non-English speaking Greek woman is separated from her translator son, an Albanian girl hides from her overbearing mother and an Irish boy and a Scottish girl fall in love at first sight. These are simple stories which weave together to create an immensely beautiful tapestry.
Individual talents in this show are simply too many to name. Frances Arroyo-Lopez is an incredible acting talent, whose power and charisma electrify the stage in her omniscient role as 'The Reader'. Pablo Laucerica delivers a broadway-ready solo performance in a song detailing the relationship between his character 'Simon' and his late father. Hale Stewart and Jennifer Hart make for an extraordinarily charming central couple whose chemistry could light up the entire Assembly Hall should there be a power cut midway through the show. Finally, Natalie Welch and Andromache Voutsa bring a similarly sweet energy to their patter duet, providing the show with one of its catchiest numbers.
But the talent extends beyond the stars, through the smaller roles and the flawless band performance to the writing talent off-stage. The shows creators, Jonathan Bauerfeld and Casey Kendall, have crafted songs which sound like they belong on a greatest hits of Alan Menken (composer of almost every Golden Era Disney classic). Where last year's productions fell short by creating a homogenously consistent tone throughout, Bauerfeld and Kendall pack in everything from the aforemetioned patter song and father-son relationship ballad to an upbeat ode to bananas and multiple rousing ensemble anthems. The direction from Ryan Cunningham and David H. Bell is similarly detailed and varied, allowing the right performers to shine at the right time to create a constant awareness of just how much talent there is on stage.
Legacy: The Book Of Names has no weak elements. In a student production drawing together two universities across two continents, written and devised by the aforementioned students largely across skype calls and emails, this is a phenomenal outcome. A simple but staggering surprise of considerable beauty and talent, the only fault of this production is that it is not two-hours longer and in a room three times the size.