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After You

| April 26, 2017

After You

Live at Zédel, London, UK, April 2017

Reviewed by Thanasis Kalantzis for Cabaret Scenes

Laura Tebbutt & Liam Doyle

After You is a new musical that revisits the primordial, bittersweet storyline of the two people who have fallen in love but cannot be together.

Chris (Liam Doyle) is a singer with a monthly residency in a cabaret bar, while Sarah (Laura Tebbutt) is a corporate lawyer.  They meet one night at the venue when Sarah, there to entertain clients who never showed up, congratulates him on his singing.  And a worthy congratulation at that, as Chris’ song “London,” an ode to the spirit of the city, was sung beautifully.

In “Meeting” they introduce themselves, and in the wittily written dialogue that follows, we hear that he likes Breaking Bad while she is more of a A Streetcar Named Desire kinda girl. Years into his singing career, he still feels he relives his childhood, while she is at the top of her profession. He doesn’t know what the word “pension” means—a blow for the meticulous planner that she is.

Despite their vastly different personalities, they begin to realize their mutual attraction. She likes his fresh, innocent approach to life and admires his passion in doing what he loves most.  In “Easy,” she sings about how comfortable she feels around him and how important it is to her that, when together, they laugh.  

There’s not enough escalation for a clear understanding of Chris’ feelings — why he likes her. They sing “Don’t Call It Love,” a really lovely song Chris wrote, inspired by some Hollywood films Sarah suggested to him.

It’s with “The Voice Inside My Head” that he professes his love for her and together, later on, they perform the love song “Touch Me.”
 
The mood gets darker with Sarah’s “Secrets.”  There is something she hides from him—a twist that frankly comes out of the blue. In the dialogue that ensues we find out that his music has finally been recognized and he has been offered a world tour. He asks her to come with him, but she refuses. She can’t, and the reason is not just her career. She is married.   

The showstopper “See the World,” in which Sarah wishes things were different, gives Tebbutt the opportunity to mesmerize us with her simply amazing voice and singing abilities. Done by both, the title song “After You” perfectly encapsulates the premise of the story and the protagonists’ feelings.

In the last scene, after Chris’ long absence, they meet again, but whether they become a couple or not is left to our imagination. We simply don’t get to know what happens after After You.

The singing is exceptional, with both vocalists delivering the demanding notes and sentiments full strength, and the hour-long musical does not outstay its welcome. On the other hand, it doesn’t allow for growth of the plot or character development and their motives. When Sarah declares that she is sorry for misleading Chris, but not for what happened between them, I felt I had not been given enough information to sympathize with her conflict. Also, Chris’ character has been somehow neglected and is in need of more nurturing.

Inspired by classics such as Brief Encounter, Falling in Love and The Way We Were, the musical is the product of childhood friends and long-time creative collaborators Katie Lam (lyrics and book) and Alex Parker (music). Over the past three years, the prolific duo has created and produced four new musicals and many musical theater songs.   

The direction, by Alastair Knights (The Rise and Fall of Little Voice, Pygmalion) makes wise use of the available space.        

Musical Director and pianist Isaac McCullough conducts with dexterity. Katherine Waller on violin, Will Harvey on cello, and Rohit Nijhawan on guitar all rise up to the demands of the score. 

This site-specific musical was commissioned by Live at Zédel and created for the Crazy Coqs. Kudos to the artistic team on this new adventure. Musical theater was perhaps the one component missing from the diverse program of this stunning venue in the heart of the capital, with the most delicious line-up of carefully selected U.K. and international leading cabaret and jazz performers.

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Category: London, London Musical Theatre Review, Musical Theatre Reviews, Off-Broadway Reviews, Regional

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