I'm Getting My Act Together and Taking it on the Road, review at Jermyn Street
It's stylishly directed, fiercely delivered and considerately produced, making for a joyous and welcome revival.
Gretchen Cryer and Nancy Ford's 1978 off-Broadway musical struck a chord with contemporary audiences, enjoying a successful run in both New York and London before fading into relative obscurity. Developed at Joe Papp's Shakespeare Festival it owes much of its style and structure to previous hits such as Hair and A Chorus Line, which furthered the genre and offered audiences a new form and style of musical theatre. At a time where many were looking to the recent past to try and emulate a similar success, I'm Getting My Act Together shares the frank and confessional spirit of Michael Bennett's A Chorus Line, as well as style and structure of its contemporaries such as Runaways, and certainly feels of its time and place.
In this well oiled and handsome looking London revival, that spirit of the 70s feels authentic and never kitsch, allowing its central message to be appropriately weighted in context, whilst also feeling shockingly relevant. Set in a music venue ahead of a comeback gig, 39-year old divorcee Heather Jones shows her probing new set list to her manager Joe, eager to break out of her previous cliché ridden act. Along with her band and backup singers they present her new material which in turn highlights Heather's need to juggle relevance with artistic integrity.
In a world where female pop stars are pressured to shave years off their age and remain defined by their relationships (Swiftleson?) there is a continued poignancy to the material that makes this a worthy and important revival. The pop music style of Cryer and Ford's score blends subversive humour with an appropriate level of platitude, blending a soulful period style with the necessary hallmarks of musical theatre.
Nicholas Colicos as manager Joe Epstein maintains the energy beautifully throughout instigating the reactions from Landi Oshinowo's strong and charismatic Heather. Together they spat and spit feathers at one another, yet it's the subtext and their relationship that interested me over the sententious and overly didactic book. The energy drops in the overly long book scenes that recycle material and turn the characters into mouthpieces rather than rounded personalities as they hash out their differences. When the microphones are down and the acting takes centre stage, it never quite feels as sincere or meaningful, and you find yourself looking forward to the next musical break.
Yet when it comes it's like mana from heaven as Oshinowo knocks each number out of the park, offering a sensitive and soul-searching performance that lays her character bare and invites you into her struggle. Her rich voice carries numbers such as “Natural High” and bounces between the more comedic and narrative “Miss America” and “Strong Woman Number” to create a well-rounded and highly accomplished central figure.
At times its slightly over busy with numerous props getting set up and stored in preparation for the next set piece which can kill some of the overall flow in the performances. The on-stage band offer solid turns, adding to the authenticity and providing exceptional backing, with the voices of Rosanna Hyland and Kristen Gaetz offering firm and welcome support.
It's stylishly directed, fiercely delivered and considerately produced, making for a joyous and welcome revival. A summer must see.