by Meredith Jones Russell
Would life really be better if it were a musical? Alexander S. Bermange’s revue show suggests it’s not all lipstick grins and audience adulation. Featuring four performers and Bermange himself on piano, the show tells their story as struggling artists, going from drama school dreams to the disappointing reality of auditions, understudying, second jobs, debilitating dance routines, low pay and backstage backstabbing.
The showtunes, belted out by consummate professionals James Hume, Felix Mosse, Charlotte O’Rourke and Charlotte Anne Steen, have been cleverly created to reference plenty of well-known hits in the music and lyrics, particularly the opening and closing numbers. Tongue firmly in cheek, the songs cover different aspects of the life of a musical theatre performer, including the actor who claims terrible illness at every audition, the awkwardness of an onstage kiss, the obligatory diva in every company and, in two stellar performances by O’Rourke, the perils of a difficult song.
Despite this range, the tone can get a bit samey; you rather feel you get the point after the first couple of numbers. There’s a kind of hollowness to a few of the performances – there is such a thing as being too knowing, and the show is a bit of a one-joke pony, with an hour a long time to sustain it for.
But a slight change of tone at the end reminds us the show is really deeply affectionate about the genre. It’s clear these characters, and by extension these performers too, would not take so many knocks if there weren’t something very special about the wonderful world of musicals that kept them, and audiences, coming back for more.
Slick, sharp, and only on occasion slightly soulless, the show is very similar to a big West End musical itself. Luckily its obvious skill and genuine love for its subject matter make it more hit than flop.
I Wish My Life Were Like a Musical runs through 26 August in Edinburgh.
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