In any amateur production, the most significant moments are those where one forgets that the performers are not professional. In this song cycle from the Hawaiian school group the IDP (aged 14-19), these moments were few and far between, but they certainly were there.
A fun group of kids singing and dancing their hearts out
Having said that, do not come to We All Have Songs expecting a message or story more original than your average high school show. Less a song cycle and more a musical revue, the show features a medley of musical theatre numbers and classics from various cultures, chosen based on the loose theme of diversity and the importance of letting your own individualism show. Most of the songs are obscure enough in origin that even a musical theatre geek (like me) will fail to recognise many – which was no bad thing. However good a high school student might be when belting out I Dreamed a Dream, she is never going to compare to Ruthie Henshall – but here I had no frame of reference for most of the show. The moments where the singing and choreography were less than perfect were offset by the fresh feeling of the content.
However, it is not to give too much away to say that the narrative that weaves the songs together is weak. A few characters had arcs throughout the show, but for the sake of trying to shoehorn the same character into Mama I’m a Big Girl Now from Hairspray and then a (remarkably adept) penguin-themed tap dance, I could have done without the few lines of expositional dialogue.
It was this very actor though, Steph Zaharis, who provided many those moments where I could have believed the show was more than a mere high school production. Consistently on form as a singer, dancer and actor, my highlight was a rendition of Caitlyn and Haley from Edges with the equally talented Lizzie Stacey, who also provided the best laughs of the show in her solo song. However, their quality was the exception rather than the rule.
I have said that the message “to sing your own song” and “let your freak flag fly” is unoriginal and the performance quality largely left something to be desired, but what may give this show its edge is its context. Growing up doing musical theatre in small-town Scotland I have seen productions like this with all-white all-Scottish casts where the message of cultural diversity is a little lost: this diverse Hawaiian group shone when they sung, in a way that made me really think that they believed in this message. Ultimately, if all you’re looking for is a fun group of kids singing and dancing their hearts out with a nice message, you could do far worse than come along to this show.