ONE (MORE) NIGHT IN LONDON – St James Studio, London.
After a successful weekend of shows earlier this year, US partnership Brian Kerrigan (composer) and Kait Lowdermilk (lyricist) were once again invited back to the St. James to showcase their work with the aid of established West End stars. Bringing with them Broadway performer Michael Arden, with whom they have a long standing collaborative relationship, they present their diverse and accomplished body of songs which fuse musical theatre and pop.
Opening with spirited feel-good number ‘Hand in Hand’ sung by Chloe Hart, the tone is set for a high quality evening and the standard rarely dips. Queen of the comedy performance, Julie Atherton has even the composers themselves laughing at her rendition of ‘Party Dress’, while at the other end of the dramatic scale Michael Arden gives an intense performance of ‘Rise’ from musical Republic, an interpretation of Shakespeare’s Henry IV Parts I & II set at the height of the troubles in Belfast.
It’s a pleasure to meet the composers behind the songs and they possess good voices themselves, Kait treating us to a heartfelt performance of ‘Anyway’ and Brian a memorable duet with Michael about two guys getting high on a trip to Vegas. The shared insights into their history and their shows never feels overpowering, they prefer quite rightly to let the music speak for itself.
Woven intricately with the memorable score, the well constructed lyrics draw on cleverly observed moments from life. Many of the songs take a ‘stream of consciousness’ approach, highlighting the quirkiness and uncertainty of every day life from the point of view of characters that feel real. Even the character interaction in duets feels spontaneous and natural. These songs are very much written to be acted, full of rich imagery that absorbs you into the characters’ world and lead you on a journey, be that literal or emotional.
Among my personal highlights, ‘Two Strangers’ is a snapshot of a man disconnected from both the people he meets and the world at large. The unusual phrasing and a haunting melody strikes a chord and the sense that he is longing for a deeper meaning in life is palpable. Another favourite, complete with dialogue and stage directions, is ‘The Journey’ from Unbound, about two young Chinese sisters chasing their dreams against staggering odds. It is at once emotional, inspiring and full of intrigue. I was left wanting more. The most experimental piece of the evening ‘Last Week’s Alcohol’ gives further proof of the team’s versatility. Powerful vocals from Jodie Jacobs and piano melody are undercut with electro beats.
Stuart Matthew Price and Lucie Jones round up the top class list of guests, their beautiful voices do justice to this incredible work. Though sometimes a little rough around the edges, overall the work is dynamic and diverse, appealing to many facets of human emotion. The observations and universal themes at play are highly relatable. Longing, regret, hope and of course humour are skilfully captured with wit and heart. It is always exciting to be introduced to new musical theatre writers with such talent and I will wait eagerly to hear more from Kerrigan & Lowdermilk in the future.
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By Catherine Duffy
16th June 2014
St James Studio, London, SW1.