GHOST QUARTET – Roundabout@SummerHall, Edinburgh.
It’s past 9pm and a group of four musicians take to the stage at Paines Plough’s pop-up Roundabout, to weave their spellbinding musical storytelling around the audience – filling this unique space with the sounds of haunting, lyrical new musical theatre. Ghost Quartet is a completely beguiling song cycle written by Dave Malloy, composer of the upcoming Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812 which is soon to open on Broadway. He and three incredible singer/musicians perform this musical piece which more than justifies Malloy as a force to be reckoned with on the musical theatre landscape.
There is a slight story-line here, dealing with two sisters and how their love for the same man drives them apart, but the joy of the piece is taking each song as it comes and reveling in the beauty of each individual musical moment. Some are sung scenes, others are rousing anthems, some are classic MT whilst others are haunting ballads – each one dealing with themes of death, identity and family. The musicianship of the four performers and their unity as an ensemble is breath-taking, but I was particularly taken with Brittain Ashford – whose vocal styling’s reminded me of Broadway’s Jessie Mueller (in the best way possible). Her 11 o’clock number ‘Hero’ is one the most delicately performed songs I’ve ever seen at the Fringe.
There are also some clever references to classic musical theatre, and the show geek in me particularly enjoyed a brief foray into Sondheim’s “Into The Woods” in one number. One section in a state of total blackout almost lost me (it had been a long day) and stylistically this section was rather too avant garde for my tastes – but the rousing finale “Wind and Rain” where many audience members were encouraged to play various instruments was a moving finale to a fringe show that is constantly surprising and always interesting. Fans of new musical theatre should not miss it.
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By Rory Maxwell
19th-22nd, and 24th-28th August 2016
Roundabout@SummerHall (venue 26), Edinburgh EH9 1PL.