a student theatre company with somewhat limited resources, but still want to
try your hand at a reasonably successful Broadway musical, then
Director Charlie Ralph has successfully brought together a tight, compact team
This “meta” self-referencing—at one point, the cast admit that a proposed dream sequence is “self-indulgent bullshit”—is the source of much of the show’s humour, but it’s also how its creators build up to their serious point. As we see the show on the increasingly rocky path towards Broadway, friendships are tested and the focuses is on the importance of artistic integrity in the face of “Change It/Don’t Change It” investors and focus groups. The conclusion is that Hunter and Jeff would prefer their show to be “nine people's favourite thing than a hundred people’s ninth-favorite thing”.
Of course, this amateur production of [title of show] lacks the original’s USP; the cast on the Bedlam stage are not literally stuck in a show playing themselves. However, this doesn’t really matter; an energetic, bright-eyed Ewan McAdam immediately engages as Hunter, and is well-matched by a somewhat more restrained performance from James Strahan; the pair bed down easily as the double act the show needs. This isn’t to ignore the excellent performances from Lucy Evans and Eleanor Crowe as Susan and Heidi, both self-aware of their roles as supporting characters in the show, who only get one chance to “hijack this page of the script” when Hunter and Jeff are in the wings supposedly networking with potential producers. Will Briant, meantime, provides excellent keyboard support as Larry, stuck at the back of the stage unsure if he’ll even be allowed to speak without union permission.
Director Charlie Ralph has successfully brought together a tight, compact team; if the show sags somewhat in the latter half, this isn’t because of those on stage, who are fully engaged with their characters and successfully “land” their punchlines with real impact. But—yes, there’s a “but”—they’re not helped by the sound balance. Briant on electric keyboard is amplified; the performers are not, meaning their vocals are often swamped by the accompaniment. Given the “intimate” proportions of the Bedlam Theatre, it might seem odd to mic up cast members barely 12 feet from the rear seats, but given the strength (or otherwise) of their vocal projection, it would have helped ensure some clarity to their vocals.