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Baggage!

 

 

The new musical comedy of (bad) manners

 

Written by Kelly Kingham and Toby Herschmann

 

Directed by Andrew Miller

 

Musical direction/ piano – Ross Wall

 

Pentameters Theatre

 

3 March – 22 March 2009

 

 

 

 

 

I

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A review by Rosie Fiore for EXTRA! EXTRA!

 

I always feel that it’s exciting to see a brand new musical, and I wasn’t alone in that emotion at the press night for Baggage! The tiny Pentameters Theatre was full to bursting with an excitable, partisan crowd, and their infectious enthusiasm gave an extra level of energy to the show.

Baggage! opens with our everyman hero, middle-aged Danny Lamb, climbing out of a window onto an outside ledge in his underpants. We meet him at a moment of crisis where he stands to lose everything: his family, his job, his dignity. He has sought refuge on the ledge to escape the situation inside, but his position leads him to consider jumping as a solution to all of his problems. Reilly, a passing hack journalist, stops him (although only in order to set up a better photo opportunity of the impending suicide), and Danny is compelled to tell us the story of his life.

 

 

It genuinely is an everyman tale, and you’ll find few plot surprises in Baggage. However this is no obstacle to its freshness and innovation. Baggage! contains some of the funniest lyrics I’ve heard in years, and has a laugh-out-loud script and some cracking characterisation. Musically, it’s hard to say whether or not it is exceptional, although there are some very catchy tunes and quite sophisticated vocal harmonies. MD Ross Wall does a very creditable job accompanying throughout on the piano, but you can’t help wondering how some of the numbers might have sounded with a fuller orchestration.

I found the first half a rollicking delight, with the story moving along at a cracking pace, but the action sagged undeniably in the second half. Partially, this was due to slower pacing from some of the performers. However I couldn’t help feeling that the script could do with a bit of an edit, especially as the story takes a slightly darker turn.

The set is deceptively simple, but the cast makes full use of the elements: suitcases (representing the “Baggage” of the title) see service as plinths, a grave and a bed among other things. It’s an ingenious and evocative use of a limited performance space.

A cast of seven in a full-length musical has their work cut out for them, and every member of the company certainly gives it welly. Steve Watts, as beleaguered Danny Lamb, is funny and touching, and vocally very strong. Lisa Peace does well with the rather thankless role of his humourless and desperate wife Sarah, and John Paton is especially notable for his subtle and funny characterisation as Danny’s father Maurice. James Kermack, as Reilly the journalist, has the difficult job of spending much of the action as a silent observer. He is a joy to watch, and his interplay with Danny provides many of the funniest moments in the show.

Returning to my opening statement, it is thrilling to see the birth of a new musical. Baggage! is clearly a labour of love for all involved, and it has oodles to offer. As the run progresses and (we hope), the show continues beyond its three weeks at Pentameters, it can only sharpen up, grow and develop. I look forward to seeing Baggage walk, run and dance!

 

 

 

Cast
Danny – Steve Watts
Sarah – Lisa Peace
Maurice – John Paton
Ruth – Sarah Ford
Renee – Irina Aggrey
Reilly – James Kermack
Casper – Josh Boyd-Rochford

Tue-Sat 8pm, Sun matinee 5pm

Pentameters Theatre, Hampstead

Tickets: £12/£10. Call 07519 056424

 

 

 

 

 

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