“I yearn as I burn”
Stephen Lanigan-O’Keeffe and Owain Rose’s Musical of the Year pops up as something of a surprise, a genuinely funny musical theatre extravaganza in the mould of something like Forbidden Broadway as it parodies any number of big musicals from the last 60 years. The conceit is a simple one – the year is 1955 and college sweethearts Rudy Brown and Lizzie Conlon are looking for ways to update a musical they wrote together. They decide to ape the style of the big award-winning musical of the year and when that fails, Rudy tries time and time again.
Their show is based on The Hunchback of Notre Dame, so we’re instantly given a helping hand in terms of the story being told. But even then, there’s a clever advancement of the travails of Quasimodo, Esmeralda et al that brings real interest to the songs, in addition to the pastiches that they engender. There’s an occasional urge to overegg the pudding in terms of making sure we ‘get’ it (the shows referenced are all in the programme) but if you can resist, there’s real joy in working out what’s coming next and its plot will be intertwined with the events of the show.
Robbie Smith and Rebecca Gilliland are both good as the composing couple, though the show’s main weakness comes in the way that their own story has to fight with the others – there’s currently just too much going on elsewhere for us to emotionally invest in them as we ought. For the joys of Jamie Fillery’s hunchback, Jennifer Tilley – and indeed Andrew Truluck – as Esmeralda and Kevin Rodgers’ less than pious churchman are undoubted, particularly as they swoop between the giants of the musical theatre canon, from…well, you just
have to go and work it out for yourself!