27: The Rise of a Falling Star

It’s not often an off-west end show in a little 150 seater theatre gets as much interest as 27 has been getting. The MTAS twitter has had a constant buzz about this show since it opened on the 8th of September so we decided to send Admin Luke (@lukesmithdj) down to see what all the fuss is about.

14264119_632776020215553_6696341482621233855_n27 is a new kind of musical. It’s a merge of rock stardom and greek mythology with a thought provoking meaning behind it. Inspired by the ’27 club’ of Amy Winhouse, Kurt Cobain, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix & Jim Morrison to name but a few. The strange fact that a number of popular music icons have all died at the age of 27 after admitting to struggles with the stardom and a media centred life. The story follows Orpheus (played by Greg Oliver) who is set to be the next big thing and follows his story and the people around him as he changes due to the evolving nature of this rock-and-roll lifestyle.

It’s safe to say that this show doesn’t hold back with casting. Whilst Oliver is still relatively unknown his co-stars include Cassie Compton as Amy (American Psycho, Wicked, Les Mis & former X-Factor finalist in 2004), Ryan Molloy as Hades (Jersey Boys, Godspell) and Ryan Gibb as Jason (The Commitments, Jesus Christ Superstar). Oliver is solid as the lead, his vocals are spot on with a powerful opening to the 2nd act in particular however his acting does let him down at times in comparison to the rest of his cast by not quite managing to deliver that knock-out blow to the more serious scenes (not overly helped by the script at times but still). Compton is goosebump-inducingly good and brings real emotion into her part and Molloy’s brilliant comic timing as Hades brings a lighter side to the show at moments when it’s needed.
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As for the rest of the cast Lucy Martin plays Ms.M and is dangerously seductive (with brave costume choices!). The three girls who are our ‘Fate’ trilogy (Maisey Bawden, Eloise Davies & Jodie Jacobs) have seriously impressive tight harmony in their songs and whilst they don’t say much in the show as a whole you get the feeling that they are always there watching! The rest of the cast (3 male ‘dogs’ and 3 female ‘nymphs’) work their backsides off throughout the show with some impressive choreography and use of space in the small environment.

The show is written and directed by Sam Cassidy and co-directed by Arlene Phillips and is a testament to how much hard work they have both put into this show. Cassidy approached Phillips to be involved in the show over three years ago and at that point had already written the entire script, all the songs and developed all the characters. Whilst this is his first musical as writer he himself has stared in musicals including Rocky Horror and Joseph. His friend Matt Wills wrote the music with Matt Nalton as the musical director for the show. The songs are powerful and used effectively throughout the show. They never really stick to one ‘style’ which isn’t a problem however it therefore struggles to give it much identity as a single production.

For me one of the most impressive parts of this show is the choreography given how much they fit into a tiny theatre in the traditional thrust layout. You are so close to the actors that you see every movement, every drop of sweat on Oliver’s chest and every little detail on the costumes!  The other highlight (pun not intended) is the lighting. The rig that designer Nick Eve has put into this theatre is way beyond all common sense but that adds to the spectacle of this show. The lighting is very different to a conventional musical, it’s a smoke flooded room and they are not scared to point lights in your face to draw you in and make sure you’re part of the show. (Warning: This production does use LOTS of smoke and strobe lighting). It’s suitably over the top and used really effectively!

I did enjoy watching this show however the story did feel a little bit obvious at times and I wanted it to go deeper into these characters (we barely learn anything about the other band members for example) and at times the script is a little bit cheesy. To me it felt that it could definitely have done more but it is still a very interesting concept and I personally liked the ending, a mock TV interview discussing the state of celebrity in the world today. You definitely leave the theatre thinking about the content and reflecting on the story you’ve seen but perhaps given the title and concept of the show you already know what the ending is going to be before it starts…
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I wouldn’t be surprised to see this show get a west-end transfer as it only has a small run in it’s current theatre so in my opinion, go and see it now whilst tickets are only £15 for any unallocated seat rather than double that for a bad seat in a bigger theatre. It’s definitely worth a watch and given that the director, lighting designer, choreographer and composer were all in attendance tonight there may still be changes to come to improve the show even more.

Overall: An interesting take on a different kind of story for a musical which is trying to push the boundaries. Not perfect but a step in the right direction. Recommended if you want to leave a theatre thinking about the state of society and/or love a good light show!
3-5-star

27: The Rise of a Falling Star is currently playing at the Cockpit Theatre until 22nd October 2016.
Tickets Available ONLINE
More Info at: www.27-london.com  and on Twitter: @27_LDN
Photos (C) Nick Ross & 27 Productions

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