“Sometimes you’ve got to take hold of your life”
First shown at the New End Theatre in 2006, Tomorrow Morning is a new contemporary musical from British writer Laurence Mark Wythe which is now playing at the Landor Theatre in Clapham. It had a successful run in Chicago in 2008 which saw quite a few changes being introduced so this is a welcome opportunity to see this charming show in its new incarnation with a superb cast. I took advantage of the half-price preview offer so this is a review of a preview performance from 16th October.
Wythe wrote the music, lyrics and book to this four-hander which follows two couples on the eve of life-changing events. One, Kat and John, are bundles of nerves, stressing out about their impending marriage and their life ahead; the other, Jack and Catherine, are older, more world-weary as they prepare to sign their divorce papers. Contrasting the headiness of young love and new beginnings with the realities of maintaining a marriage, the show offers a thoughtful, universal look into relationships with some genuinely appealing characters and some moving revelations.
Whilst the main attraction for me was the opportunity to see Julie Atherton performing (I swear this woman is close to, if not the best, musical theatre actress in this country), I love contemporary musical theatre and feel that it does not get enough love in London. So I was pleased that Tomorrow Morning was decidedly melodic, structurally intricate and emotionally engaging. It is really quite witty and inventive lyrically, mostly avoiding cliché and there is an honesty to much of it that is most refreshing, given that the subject material is one which has been extensively covered before. In my limited experience, I think this fits stylistically quite close to Jason Robert Brown’s work, covering quite a few musical bases. But I was most impressed with the way in which Wythe can weave together different voices in a song: quite often all four characters would contribute their own viewpoints but always with great clarity and a real sense of musical cohesion.
It helps when you have an amazing cast too though, working so hard: everyone remains onstage pretty much throughout the entire show so they have to be ‘on’ at all times which they all do so well. I’ve made my feelings about Julie Atherton clear but she really is superb, she is so good at the comic numbers, her delivery of the witticisms not even being hampered by a mouthful of Oreos. But it was nice to be surprised by Yvette Robinson who was sensationally good with a vocally strident performance which also captured the deep disillusionment and disappointment of Catherine. Jon Lee has a real likeability as his raffish screenwriter with a dirty addiction and Grant Neal delivered a strong performance with a character who is probably the weakest link in the chain, only gaining real depth towards the end, but he can wear the hell out of a purple shirt!
Chris de Wilde’s design is a cleverly constructed wall of cupboards which allows for the full maximisation of the intimate space, providing storage space for props, opportunities for dance routines and some nice comic moments. And I can’t believe no one went to the wrong cupboard at any point (you will see what I mean), given how early in the run it is, that was seriously impressive!
If I had to be picky, I wasn’t too keen on the replaying of messages left on answering machines to reveal key plot points, a device used throughout, as it took away from the liveness of the performance, the sound balance wasn’t quite right for them to be completely audible (admittedly I was sat close to the band and there’s still time to tweak it before opening night). The use of projections didn’t feel wholly integrated, they are used so sparingly that it was a surprise each time: my inclination would be to project the words of the messages as they are spoken, thereby presaging the final image which did work really well. And given the strength and cleverness of the humour of most of the show, I didn’t care for the occasional dip into easy humour with the Pool Boy song and the erectile dysfunction gags.
So for a shining example of what contemporary musical theatre looks like at the moment, you can’t go far wrong with making a visit to the Landor in the next few weeks. Small-scale musicals, when they are this good and performed this well with great musical direction from David Randall and his band of three, are an absolute treasure and I recommend booking early for this one.