Review: The Little Big Things, @sohoplace

An excellent new British musical, the hype about The Little Big Things just could be worth it for once

“You’re better with your mouth than you ever were with your hands”

There may be an extraordinary lack of space inbetween rows of seating at @sohoplace (heaven help you if you arrive late and you’re in the middle of a row) but more pleasingly, its space is proven as accessible as brand new musical The Little Big Things arrives with two wheelchair users fully integrated into its full-on song and dance routines, Mark Smith’s choreography as truly inclusive as it is wonderfully expansive.

On the face of it, the source material might not strike you as the most likely of subjects for a musical – Henry Fraser’s memoir of a life reshaped by a teenage diving accident that left him paralysed from the neck down. But why not? Joe White’s book centres on an ongoing conversation between a pre-accident Henry (an excellent puppyish Jonny Amies) and Henry as he is now (a dryly amusing Ed Larkin), around whom a whirl of friends, family and medical staff try their best to deal with this new reality.

It all works extremely well, navigating the sensitivity of the topic well so we’re not dipping into ‘inspiration porn’ but also recognising that emotional rollercoasters have ups as well as downs and so our hearts hurt as well as swell, sometimes at the same time. Nick Butcher’s power-pop score, with lyrics by Butcher and Tom Ling, aids immeasurably here, by turns perky, plaintive and punchy, mixing triumph in with the tears through all of the turmoil.

Director Luke Sheppard makes great use of the hi-tech capabilities here, Colin Richmond’s open set design allied brilliantly with the colour washes of Luke Halls’ video work. And an excellent supporting cast match the superb Amies and Larkin – Linzi Hateley and Alasdair Harvey almost unbearably moving as grief-stricken parents Fran and Andrew, Jamie Chatterton, Jordan Benjamin and Cleve September boyband perfect as the other Larkin brothers, and Amy Trigg’s wise-cracking Agnes is a scene stealing delight as the physiotherapist who provides so much plain-speaking inspiration for Henry. A great new British musical.

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