Edinburgh Fringe 2011
A tight young ensemble from Coventry have created an energetic, well-rehearsed production of a musical that unfortunately lacks the same sparkle as its performers.
The lead role of Evan, the NY Jew transplanted to Appleton Indiana following his parents’ divorce, is a big ask, the actor on stage the whole show, and Patrice, his neighbour, a nerdy outcast girl, is even bigger, with some hugely demanding songs executed faultlessly with a beautiful voice. The chorus and supporting roles are also performed well, the ditzy Kendra played with bubbly abandon. A Coventry-based ensemble, their American accents are very convincing, though some still need to learn some finesse in their acting – there are some quite hammy parts. There were also moments when you could see a slightly glazed expression on some of the ensembles’ faces as they wait for their musical entry points, and need to remain focussed on
The musical itself however, with lyrics and music written by modern legend Jason Robert Brown, is, well, lame. Covering all the trials and tribulations of being 13, from fitting in to getting kissed, this is every teen story ever written, blended to a bland, beige consistency. The score is somewhere in the region of High School Musical in terms of complexity, and approaching Fame levels of irritating.
It is a good choice for a young cast, being a rare musical with no adult roles, and the performers throw energy and commitment into the performance. I did however find it a little disconcerting to see a show written and performed in the 21st Century depicting very young girls as either entirely passive participants in burgeoning romances, waiting to be chosen by the boys or – in the case of the character Lucy – conniving by spreading rumours about her best friend in order to The boys meanwhile work together to arrange romances, with Evan using his ability to “set up” dates with girls as a bargaining tool to gain acceptance with the popular boy.
It’s nothing you’ve not seen before though, and if you’re looking to see some of the next generation of West End stars, you may just catch one or two here.