How do you measure a year? Well ask any musical theatre fan and they will simply respond: Love. Set in the American AIDS epidemic, a young group of artists question their experiences of love, passion and life. This internationally acclaimed production is brought to the Old Rep stage by Michael Neri and his wonderfully talented cast with a company ranging in ages and professional status.
A sparse, industrial set – comprising of scaffolding bars, steel deck and rope – presented itself from the off and set the tone for the aggressive, gritty realism of poverty and isolation; helping to stimulate the narrative before the show had begun.
One element that enhanced this industrialised set was Charlie Morgan-Jones' open rig lighting design which created some beautifully artistic images throughout the performance: this was particularly apparent in Seasons Of Love. There were some moments where the lighting made it difficult to see some of the performers expressions and some facets of the individual performances were missed.
The cast led the narrative well with some strong vocal moments – notably during Take Me or Leave Me with Ashleigh Ashton as Maureen and Sophie Poulton as Joanne. The two strongest vocals in the cast came into play here and they should be commended for continuing to such a high standard despite sound difficulties. This was an issue unto itself and was apparent that there were some sound issues throughout which distracted the audience on many occasions and contributed to confusing the narrative, but the cast handled the technical opening night glitches very professionally.
Rhys Owen stole the show as Collins throughout. The character’s struggles were well realised by an actor who clearly knew this role. The role’s peak comes in I'll Cover You (Reprise) where Rhys shone and had the audience in the palm of his hand. A commendable performance also from the ensemble who provided a powerful backing during this musical number.
The band was good and although there were some timing issues, the cast pushed the narration and vocals and created real life in the Old Rep Theatre.
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