Posts Tagged ‘Andy Coxon’

This is a musical theatre debut by Gus Gowland, who is responsible for the book, music and lyrics. I can’t think of a more auspicious British musical premiere since Howard Goodall’s The Hired Man over thirty years ago.

It’s a very cleverly structured piece which takes you a short while to unravel, juxtaposing a contemporary gay relationship with a wartime one, where one party is the grandson of another. Newly married Edward is conscripted and at the war front fellow serviceman Tom offers to teach him to dance so that he can sweep his wife Anna off her feet on his return home. A seemingly hopeless relationship soon develops.

Many years later, at Edward’s funeral, we meet his only daughter Jane, who disapproves of her son (Edward’s grandson) Ed’s homosexuality and boyfriend Harry. Ed’s younger sister thinks it’s normal, even cool – a change in just one generation. A stranger, Rose, arrives with a box of memories, we learn she is Tom’s sister and the story is pieced together and we understand the significance of the title.

The score is lovely, with delicate solos and duets and more rousing ensemble pieces like Standing in the Shadows, which sees all four men across time in unison and melodies return and interweave. Perhaps because he wrote both, the book and lyrics are seamless, jointly propelling the story. There’s an organic flow between scenes in a very fluid staging by Ryan McBryde, with a cleverly effective design from newcomer Fin Redshaw. Paul Herbert’s ensemble of piano, cello and reeds makes a beautiful, delicate accompaniment.

It’s strongly cast, with Craig Mather & Joel Harper-Jackson as wartime lovers Edward and Tom and Andy Coxon & Gary Wood as contemporary Ed & Harry. Carol Starks brilliantly conveys the cold, emotionless Jane literally in the middle of it all, with Ella Dunlop excellent as Ed’s feisty sister Gemma. I very much liked Lauren Hall, who has to switch from doting newlywed to heartbroken wife, and there’s a lovely cameo from Marilynn Cutts as the older Rose.

I can’t believe for one minute that this premiere production in Colchester will be its last. Gold stars to the Mercury, Perfect Pitch and TBO Productions for developing it.

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This musical is set in the Second World War, amongst American conscripts in training in Texas and then at the front in the Pacific. Yank! is the title of the military newspaper, part of the effort to keep up morale. The twist in Joseph & David Zellnik’s show is that it’s a gay love story.

Young and naive Stu is at first the butt of jokes in his Company, but is eventually accepted, partly thanks to his protector Mitch. There is an attraction between him and Mitch, and a brief dalliance, but the latter won’t accept his sexuality. Stu is befriended by Yank! gay photographer Artie who gets him a job as his accompanying reporter and introduces him to a thriving but clandestine gay world in the military, but he’s obsessed with Mitch and hatches a plan to visit and report on his old Company. The relationship is briefly rekindled, though Mitch is still uncomfortable. They are seen embracing by a colleague, which risks exposure and seemingly impossible choices.

The score is excellent, but somewhat old-fashioned, and the first half seemed a bit like a gay South Pacific. Then I realised that the style suits the period, and changes as the story gets much deeper in the second half, when it really drew me in and engaged me emotionally. Given that it was inspired by Allan Berube’s book Coming Out Under Fire, I liked the framing of a narrator finding Stu’a journal in a junk shop. James Baker’s staging is hugely impressive, with excellent choreography by Chris Cuming. The musical standards under MD James Cleeve are very high indeed. Scott Hunter and Andy Coxon are both excellent as Stu and Mitch respectively and Sarah-Louise Young is terrific in all the female roles, so many I lost count. What I liked most about the fine ensemble was their complete believability as a company of soldiers of all shapes, sizes and looks.

A lovely show which fits Charing Cross Theatre perfectly. You should go.

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