|Liam Doyle (Chris) and Laura Tebbutt (Sarah)|
(Crazy Coqs, 16th April 2017. Review by Tamsin Collison)
After You is the fourth musical from composer Alex Parker and book/lyric writer Katie Lam. Commissioned for Crazy Coqs, the basement cabaret bar at Brasserie Zedel in Piccadilly, this site-specific, 1-Act, 2-handed chamber musical traces the relationship arising from a brief encounter between Chris, a nightclub singer (Liam Doyle) and Sarah, an accidental member of his audience one night (Laura Tebbutt).
It's a simple idea, economically explored by the writers. On the plus side it's well-played, well-sung and at 60 minutes' running time doesn't outstay its welcome. Unfortunately, the fragmented, episodic structure means that the audience doesn't get to know the characters well enough to fully invest in their story. We watch events unfold with curiosity, but it is hard to care very much about the protagonists, despite the best efforts of the accomplished performers..
The score is tuneful and competent, and the lyrics are, for the most part, neat. Although, in Secrets, one of the show's best songs, it was unclear what secret the character was keeping or from whom, and the hero's signature song, London, isn't a strong enough number to show the audience his untapped professional potential. Martin Higgins' orchestrations for the 4-piece band (piano, violin, cello, guitar) are dextrous, the MD, Isaac McCulloch, directs operations with skill and energy, and the actors give polished performances, thankfully tailored to the intimate space, rather than overpowering their audience with West End belting, as so often happens in smaller venues. They are also to be congratulated on working around Doyle's broken collarbone, which was acquired just before opening night and required him to sport a sling throughout.
Overall, After You is a pretty flimsy show, but it was an enjoyable way to pass an hour, and Crazy Coqs should be commended for such an enterprising and interesting project. New music theatre writing needs to be nurtured and encouraged, so it's great to see a key London venue stepping up to the plate like this.
After You runs at Crazy Coqs until Saturday April 22nd. BOOKINGS