Friday, 22 February 2013

The Route To Happiness - Landor Theatre - Thursday 21 February ***

It’s been ages since we’ve troubled one of our favourite theatres, but the Landor’s Page to Stage initiative mounting brand new musical theatre was enough to coax us down to Clapham on a school night.

Alexander S Bermange’s interwoven story takes us through the lives, loves and aspirations of three present day Londoners as each strives to attain something they don't have (a partner, a career and fame).

With a phenomenal cast more used to gracing the stages of the West End, director Robert McWhir must have had a dream job, as Niall Sheehy’s would be entrepreneur,  Marcus, begins a romantic relationship with Shona White’s celebrity autobiography ghost-writer, Lorna, and a working relationship with Cassidy Janson’s hopeless wannabe (can’t sing, can’t dance) Trinity.

Over two, sung-through, hours the three come tantalisingly close to achieving their ambitions only to discover that none of them are all that they hoped they would be.

Bermange’s contemporary score manages to be challenging and tuneful, with plenty of dissonance when things are going wrong, balanced by some gorgeous ballads, notably Lorna’s stunning 11 o’clock number, I’ll Never Change A Single Thing. There is also an hysterical ghetto rap from Trinty as she tries one of a myriad of ways of becoming famous.

The cast are, as to be expected, top notch, all making the most of the often complicated songs and all, dare I say it, taking us on journeys of self-discovery. It may seem churlish to single out anyone in particular, but Shona White makes her mark spectacularly with a stupendous voice in what seems at first glance to be the most underwritten role, but ends up being a feminist triumph.

I don’t really know what the show is attempting to say apart from “be careful what you wish for as it may come true” and the fact that you can always rely on your Mum, but as a chamber piece in a room above a pub and as a celebration of new musical theatre writing it is worth £12 of anyone’s money.

As part of the Page to Stage season, this 6 day run is presumably a showcase for a work still in progress and the first act would maybe benefit from a judicious trimming of 15 minutes or so, but it has certainly whetted my appetite for more work from Mr Bermange and what a dream it is to enjoy three performers of this calibre up close and personal.
Booking until 24 February 2013, a treat that leaves you wanting more - The Route To Happiness

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