"Dead A Musical"
Nottingham New Theatre.
Nottingham New Theatre.
A musical about the dead isn't a new idea, neither is a musical comedy, but this musical, written by Laurence Cuthbert & Josh Mallalieu, is an absolute, blinding success. Lasting about three hours long, I could've watched it for longer.
Laurence & Josh are musical geniuses (or is that geniii?). They have created a musical about a family who died in a fire in 1895 and have remained in their old home, waiting for God to call them up to Heaven.
There's The Baron, the patriarch of the family (Cameron Walker), The Baroness (Emilie Brittain), their daughter Liz (Alice Simmons), her suitor, George (Harry Pavlou), the butler Porter (Sam Morris) and the Baron's mistress, Louisa (Selin Aci).
Move forward 90 odd years and we hit the 1980's and Caroline (Rachel Connolly), a young girl, has moved in. There's the obligatory house-warming party which doesn't go down well with The Baron, who still sees the place as his home; he won't even allow his family outside the front door, keeping his family inside with the fear of what may happen to them.
George though falls for Caroline, but what can he do? he has been dead for over 90 years and Caroline is...well she's not dead!
Caroline feels that something isn't quite right and gets a medium in. Enter Madge (Sasha Gibson). Madge makes Madam Acarti from "Blithe Spirit" look like Madge from Edna Everage's show! Full of life (if you'll pardon the unintended pun) and she draws the six spirits into the open where only she can see them. that's when George confesses his interest in Caroline and Madge offers to help with the age old spiritual device of a Scrabble board!
And that's where the fun really starts. The fun and also quite a novel love story.
Having seen quite a few of the NNT productions this season, and I'm quite sad to say that this is the final one for this season, but what a show to end on. You get to see some of the actors in different roles and you see a different side to them. Harry Pavlou, in this, shows that he can carry a tune as well. He can do comedy, dance, sing and play a romantic leading role all in one. One of the many talented performers who has been consistent throughout the seasons.
The lovely Rachel Connolly, who I last saw in "A Midsummer Night's dream" at Lakeside, also turns in a wonderful performance as George's earthly love interest.
I adored the energy and comedy that Sasha Gibson put into the role of Madge, all the way through the show, never flagging in the energetic dance routines interspersed with the whirlwind medium role.
Cameron Walker is another consistent actor, having seen him perform in several roles this year at NNT. He is perfect for the role of The Baron and also delivers a fine sense of comedy timing.
Emilie Brittain is a very classy act; every inch the Baroness, and lovely to see the character break out a bit and enjoy the wonders that the Eighties could offer. A beautifully restrained performance.
Alice Simmons, and this is my first time seeing Alice, turned in a performance that matched the Baroness, restrained and perfectly controlled.
Sam Morris didn't get an awful lot to say in the play but what he didn't say was lovely. His 80's film adoration in Act two was wonderful fun to see.
Selin Aci makes her NNT debut as Louisa, which was, again if you pardon the pun, spirited as well as an energetic role to take on. I hope to see more in the next season from Selin.
With being a musical, you have to have a chorus/ensemble, whatever you wish to call it, and they consisted of a group who doubled up their parts, occasionally trebled up. Matthew Charlton, who also makes his debut NNT appearance, but what a wonderfully confident debut for them. Charlotte Kirkman, Rachael Baines and Emma Pallett, who debuts here as well. Brilliant support with great energy.
The songs, all original came thick and fast. And what wonderfully catchy tunes they were. They covered many different genres and musical director Jacob Lloyd did a brilliant job of getting the particular sound for each genre and era spot on. From rock to power ballads to disco, there was something for everyone.
Mr Mallalieu and Mr Cuthbert have done an amazing job, not only creating a very entertaining and novel musical, they have also done their homework on the Eighties, the music, the feel, the props etc. from the Human League "Dare" vinyl LP, the Cyndi Lauper "She's So Unusual" track listing to the rubik's cube, leg warmers, clothes and language of the era, nothing was missed out. Great spadework done.
The lighting design (Sam Osborne), which faded at the end of each scene to pitch, meant that the scenes could be changed with the minimum of fuss and created a natural end to the scenes and opening to the next. Nothing overly fancy, but that wasn't needed and being subtle, including the lighting through the opened door in Act Two to give the silhouette effect created just the perfect atmosphere and image.
The sound design (Darcey Graham) was clear, though there were times when it could maybe have been a smidge lower with the backing track as a few words went unheard by the singers. That said, it was a very minor detail, bordering on picky.
The choreography (Jess Millott) was brilliant. So energetic and exciting, and you could tell that a lot of hard work went into learning the moves from all the actors on stage.
The set was adaptable for the actors and worked on two levels which meant that at times you could concentrate on the action while the other side was being set up for the next bit without being distracting. Couldn't see a mention for the set designer but whoever you are, you created a wonderful working set.
Emily Sterling did a sterling job as producer, pulling this whole amazing new musical together with the writers and directors. Who's have thought you could have so much fun with legwarmers and woodlice. Yes, you did read that right!.
"Dead A Musical" is one of the best new pieces of theatre I've seen this year, and it's had some competition from some of their own productions, but I can honestly say that i loved every single minute of this musical, and I can't wait for the soundtrack.
"Dead" is being performed at Nottingham New Theatre until Friday 16 December 2016, but you may need to move heaven and earth to get one as they are practically sold out.