2 March 2016

Buoyed by an emotional and skilful Road Show at the Union Theatre

I am not a great Sondheim fan so Road Show might not have appealed to me had it not been on at the Union Theatre where I had seen plenty of good musicals that I had known nothing about beforehand.

The story sounded interesting and that helped. It was the story of two brothers living at the start of the twentieth century when the USA offered the American Dream.

Besides, after seeing a few excellent but dark plays a musical seemed like a good way to spend a Wednesday evening.

So I paid my £20 and got the final ticket for that day. Several other days were already sold out. That was good to see both as a recommendation for the show and for the health of the theatre.

By coincidence, that health was confirmed the same day when I got an email from them saying that they would soon be moving to new premises in another railway arch on the other side of the road. It will be bigger and better, they mentioned hot water!, and I am looking forward to going there. I'll also be contributing towards their supporters' fund.

My routine for the Union Theatre is well practiced and very effective. I left the office at 5:45pm and walked down from Kings Cross to Southwark arriving at the theatre just as the box office opened at 6:30pm and that got me one of the desired first ten tickets, it was actually number one! That left me a comfortable hour to stroll along to Culture Grub for some Chinese food. I got back to the theatre in time to get a coffee to take in with me.

Around 7:25pm the first ten ticket holders were invited in and I politely let an elderly couple in before me. They took two seats at the end of the front row of the central block that left the centre seat free for me.

The stage was set much as it had been for Fear and Misery of the Third Reich with the seating along one of the long sides, the musicians in the far right corner and a large picture frame with a gauze-like material at the centre back of the stage.

The story started with the death of the brothers' father which caused them to venture out to seek their fortunes, starting with a gold rush in Alaska.

One of the boys was hard working and the other spent most of his time in the local bar, which he subsequently won in a card game. The boys fell out and went their separate ways.

We followed those separate ways through their ups and downs and the occasional reunions. Along the way we discovered that one of them was gay and one of the nicest tunes of the evening was a love duet made all the more poignant by the context, this was 1930's USA not 2010's Brighton.

There were plenty of other good tunes and I unexpectedly found my foot tapping throughout the evening. I had expected a few good songs but I had not expected the music to be as consistently enjoyable as it was.

Helping the songs immensely was the large cast all of whom sang, acted and moved well. It frustrates me that so many theatre websites do not do proper cast lists, though I accept that many have programmes that they want to sell that would give me the information I am after, so I'll only mention Andre Refig as the older brother, Wilson Mizner, who had the voice that I liked the most.

I also liked the young woman who blew me a kiss at one point though I'll have to admit that as a rare male in a female dominated front row I was an obvious target. This was during one of the all cast singing and dancing numbers that were interspersed between the more personal songs by and between the three male leads.

Road Show was fairly short, around 100 minutes and so it dispensed with an interval. I approved as even though the show was episodic, often leaping forward a few years, there was no obvious break and to insert one would have broken the flow of the journey.

There was lots to enjoy in Road Show and while there was sadness and anger in it the overall impression was a positive one and I left the theatre buoyed by both the story and the skill of all the people who delivered it. It was indeed a great way to spend a Wednesday evening.

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