Bridewell Theatre, London – until 9 March 2019
Reviewed by Claire Roderick
Sedos never cease to amaze with their production values, creating polished shows that you forget are by an amateur company. For NTYK, the theatre is transformed into Sullivan Street Tavern in New York. Mingling at the bar with the regulars until last orders is rung to get the audience into their seats, the ambience is brilliant, and the set design team deserve at least 10 stars for their authentic and detailed realisation of a bar that is instantly recognisable to anyone who watches New York set TV shows. The staging is wonderfully thought out and director Dan Saunders has created a special atmosphere. During the interval, the bar opens again, and the cast stay in character chatting to the audience and setting up a few dramatic events. This is all done fantastically and is arguably the most enjoyable part of the show as the actual musical isn’t that exciting.
It could well be my age, but the plot about a couple in their late twenties breaking up because of their different expectations and then getting back together again because one of them has suddenly realised that growing up means letting go of some dreams and finding a new path through life is all a bit bland. This sort of story has been done so much better. Joshua Salzman and Ryan Cunningham have come up with some fun musical numbers, but nothing that will stay in your head for longer than the walk to the train station. The book is flimsy, and the short running time allows no believable character development, leaving Waverly and Luke’s attitude changes jarring and ridiculously obviously signposted. The cast deserve better.
Laura Ellis (Waverly), Bobbi Mair (Lisa) and Chris Foxwell (Luke) and Luke James Leahy (Darren) are all on top form, doing all they can to make their cliched characters relatable, and showing great vocal skills. The ensemble cast do sterling work in their non-speaking roles during the performance, with lovely visual clowning, and go to town in the interval as they are given the opportunity to flesh out their characters.
A fantastic experience and production with a fine cast let down by the material. It’s a shame the company couldn’t just riff along with the audience for longer – that was the most entertaining part of the show.