'The show must always go on'-Thoroughly Modern Musicals @ Bristol Improv Theatre


Grace Kendrick reviews an evening of contemporary cabaret, arranged by a recent Bristol graduate.

University of Bristol graduate, Hayley Guest, demonstrates how ‘the show must always go on’ with the great success of her first arrangement of a new contemporary cabaret show, Thoroughly Modern Musicals. Guest pulls together some of Bristol’s best young musical talent, including recent graduates, music students and friends.

With a full house, the Bristol Improv Theatre is a perfect backdrop for an evening of music, drawn from the contemporary musicals selected by Guest and her cast of ten. For those who love their culture-consumption to be packed with variety, the array of musicals is full of both good humour and moments ripe for awe at some fantastic musical talent.

'the singers quickly remove their microphones and continue on, regardless, to demonstrate their very best vocals'

On arrival, the venue buzzes with anticipation and the theatre is packed. Following a technical glitch where the microphones stop working, the team quickly collaborate to ensure that the show does, as it must, go on. The singers quickly remove their microphones and continue on, regardless, to demonstrate their very best vocals, without the support of the sound system. Despite the obvious concern that the accompanying band will drown out the vocalists, the techincal difficulties have no impact on the quality of this performance. If anything, the night is proof that the cast's strong voices don’t need the microphones, while the lack of technology allows their natural charisma to emerge from behind the shields of microphone stands. This pushing of the cast outside of their comfort zone leads to a fantastic engagement with audience members, including hearty encouragements of audience participation.

The evening provides a varied mix of songs from contemporary musicals, including The Book of Mormon, Edges and The Last Five Years,along with the classics of Thoroughly Modern Millie and Parade. The first half is extremely entertaining, with special consideration/ giggles provided by the fantastic duets of ‘You & Me’ and ‘Baptize Me’ from Book of Mormon. These are accompanied by solo performances and group numbers which feature all ten cast members, creating a variety that continues the sense of good entertainment and engagement with the audience.

Eleanor Leaper in particular provides an outstanding performance, demonstrating her real potential for a future in musical theatre with fantastic characterisation and wonderful entertainment value. Other performers who deserve a special mention include Jaryd Evans, who performs with great energy, and Jack Blackmore, who suitably transforms himself into a number of charismatic musical theatre personas throughout the evening. Great potential is shown by Sophie Morris, who sings a number of solo performances that she performs with growing confidence.

Favourite numbers which eleict a good audience response include ‘Summer in Ohio,’ from The Last Five Years ‘Text Message Song,’ sung by Lily Dyble, and ‘We’re just friends,’ from I Love you Because. These all well accompanied by the band, who are well rehearsed and very involved with the transition of music between performances. Overall, I left Thoroughly Modern Musicals hoping that the night was only the first of many performances to come. For music lovers, this performance proves how a show really can go on, and how true 21st century showmanship might just consist of overcoming technical glitches.

What are your thoughts on this modern take on cabaret?Let us know in the comments below or on social media.

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