The performances were generally good, with some excellent vocal tones and some good displays of control.
There was a good spread of different styles represented within the selected songs: as well as a number of emotional ballads of the type that are quite prevalent in musical theatre, there was a liberal sprinkling of excellent entertaining numbers. Something For The Pain, one of a number of inclusions written by the clearly talented Eamonn O’Dwyer, was particularly funny, being both well performed and well written, lyrically and musically. The philosophy of many a midday drunk was amusingly explored, and we found ourselves wondering about the play which it is surely part of.
This was a recurring issue. While it is possible that some of these songs have been written and submitted to NEXT UK as part of works in progress, or as standalone songs, it seems likely that many of them are parts of full musical theatre plays, about which we received no information. I Can’t Live Here Anymore, another highlight, this time written by James Michalos, was such a tragic and saddening piece that it was impossible not to be curious about the why and the who that had created this emotion in the character. It was a frustrating experience, without any way of getting context. This was also to the detriment of the performers - many of them performed well vocally, but did very little acting. Clearly the element of musical theatre that sets it apart from other forms is the songs, and quite rightly they were the focus of the evening, but to truly showcase the writer's work and the performers skills, we need some sense of the totality.
The performers and organisers deserve a great deal of credit though; you cannot argue that they aren’t doing a good thing. The performances were generally good, with some excellent vocal tones and some good displays of control. Any weaker sections were brief, and the key success was that new material was performed to an audience with a real interest in it. The atmosphere and tone of the entire event was casual and relaxed, and this was key for keeping the audience involved and engaged with each song, and it’s definitely possible to see the potential in some of the work. Perhaps we really will see some of these writers and performers finding great success in the future.