This 1970s’ take on the putting-on-a-musical musical has a central premise fitting for its time: the audition as therapy. Seventeen would-be hoofers are trying for a part in a big Broadway show whose director (Louis Livesey-Clare) seems as interested in their souls as their dancing skills. If the dancers themselves feel that their résumés contain a ‘picture of a person I don’t know’, then the only way for the director to find out who they are is to explore their back stories through asking them what made them become dancers.
The characters we meet include Val (Emily Wright) who casting directors acknowledge is incredibly talented but, until some surgical enhancement, only scored ‘a 3 for looks’; Cassie (Megan O’Hara) who, perhaps unwisely, walked out of a relationship with the director without letting him know; Greg (Gary Lynn) a gay Jew who discovered his true nature whilst making out with a girl and Paul (Hari Johnson) a young Puerto Rican who got onto the lower rungs of showbiz by working in a seedy drag club.
Of the seventeen some are more successfully rendered than others – this can be down to the performance as much as the writing. Probably the most intensely realised is Paul; on stage I’ve seen a lot of gay men wrestling with coming out and their relationship with their parents, but this scene still managed to move me. Even though the writing lacks subtlety, Hari is truly sensational in his ten-minute monologue. He perfectly expresses Paul’s vulnerability and determination with such charm the whole audience was rapt. The part when he relates his parents’ reaction to the truth about his sexuality gave me the requisite lump in my throat. The only duff note comes when Paul says of the drag queens that ‘they had no dignity: they considered themselves freaks’. From the what we know of Paul he’s surely more generous than this.
Other stand-outs include a wonderfully comic set-piece by Jade Hunt playing a woman who can dance but not sing and Nicole Nobrega playing a petite dancer who can still get cast as kids in even in her thirties.
Of course it’s a matter of taste but I’ve never been that keen on some of its more famous songs (One, in particular, I’ve always found too cheesily middle-of-the-road). However, this is a marvellously spirited production full of a number of excellent – and one truly outstanding – performances.