Not another new musical, I hear you say! Well, that was my reaction, at least. The thirst for musicals seems insatiable and the ability of composers and writers to think up new plots and songs is almost as limitless. So, where does this new show in to the genre and what might tempt you to pay a visit?
Well, what makes this musical refreshingly different is that it doesn't take itself at all seriously, at least in terms of the plot or implied messages. There are no hidden meanings or moralistic pretensions, and the focus is simply on enjoying the experience. What has been taken seriously is the process of assembling one of the best casts I've seen in a while. This cast can sing incredibly well and almost all of them have the physical qualities for their respective parts. Now before anyone starts getting all politically correct, I know that physical attributes aren't everything, but they do go a long way in making the audience believe in the characters. And that's important. Here, the casting is simply superb with everyone fitting their parts almost like proverbial gloves. But more about the cast anon.
The show follows the fortunes of the cast and crew of an American TV soap which has become a tradition in the annals of television. On air for 30 years, the programme – entitled Legacy Falls – has gone through more plot lines than there are stars in our galaxy and the regular characters have swapped partners so many times that they can't remember who they have and haven't actually slept with, married or fathered. Nearing the 30th anniversary of the show, both the show's sponsors and the 'people from the network' are unsettled by the show's appeal, story and ratings. Things have to change and the producer has to find a stunning way to do it.
Perhaps confusingly, most of the actors here play two roles since they have their on-screen personas in the TV soap as well as their actor characters. Leading the team are Mark Inscoe who plays Edward Trafford and Jack Monroe, and Tara Hugo who plays Stepanie Stone and Veronica Monroe Casey Bennett. Both of these actors are simply perfect for their roles here. Mr Inscoe with grey hair, dignified good looks and the cynicism born of the wearying demands of a long-term engagement in a TV serial. Ms Hugo also captures the coiffured manner of a successful business woman (in her TV role) and the desperation of an actor who's life is about to be shredded if her role in the TV series is cut. The remainder of the cast not only provide exceptional support, but also have excellent singing voices and, as with the leads, are brilliantly cast.
One or two troublesome gremlins in the audio department caused minor irritations, but those unpredictable techie problems didn't spoil the performances or the overall experience. And full marks to the cast for dealing with the technical issues without getting flustered. In the other areas of the technical arena, things were more interesting. There are monitors at the side of the stage which tell you when the soap is being recorded and credits roll on them come the end of the show - neat and simple tricks which turn out to be very effective. Overall, this is a fun night out – but it's not quite perfect. I think the first half could have a chain saw taken to it in order to reduce the length to something far more tolerable. And the scenes where the soap is being rehearsed and recorded are far better and funnier than those where we see the background machinations between producer, the network moguls and the sponsor. And frankly, the gay element of the plot is way past its sell by date, or even done-to-death by now. It's well-handled and not too soppy, but we've been there, done that, worn the t-shirt etc etc etc.
Even taking account of the niggles, I enjoyed 'Legacy Falls' especially the elements which focused on the soap itself. There's one classic scene where Veronica is singing and then goes into recording a fight. She ends up in a heap on the floor and then struggles to her feet to finish the song. Great stuff, which was fully appreciated by the rest of the audience too.