The occasional series of concerts dedicated to showcasing some of the new musical theatre writing coming from both the UK and America moved to a new, bigger venue for Sunday night’s third Snappy Title. I’ve never been to its old home of the Pigalle Club, but from what I understand its small size is more suited to out and out cabaret than this form of concert.
And yet in truth, most of the time the Cochrane’s stage seemed a little too big. Most of the numbers featured were solo performances that saw the performers look a little lost on such a comparatively large stage. The feeling was compounded by lighting which all too often bathed the entire, all-but-empty stage in a uniform glow.
One can forgive those minor quibbles, though, if the performances are as good as they were on Sunday. The selection of material offered some intriguing subject matter for new musicals, with topics including Greek hero Achilles hiding out by dressing in drag and a woman who finds herself lost between real life and nightmare, unable to tell which is which, among more traditional fare based on the perils of dating and retelling of classic fairy tales.
Divorced from the musicals they are part of, it’s hard to tell whether the new songs would actually work in their intended context. Some, including the superbly comic Nightmare on Sunset Boulevard performed by the peerless Issy Van Randwyck, give all the impression of working far better as cabaret songs than they ever could within a larger dramatic structure. Matt Board’s Let Down Your Hair, a comic number which gives voice to Rapunzel’s inner monologue, has a charm and wit that wouldn’t feel out of place alongside some of Menken and Ashman’s works for Disney: there’s a sense of it akin to one of their first act female empowerment songs (e.g., The Little Mermaid’s Part of Your World).
Alongside all the new works, some of legendary Jule Styne’s works were also showcased, with the second act topped and tailed with a variety of numbers from the likes of Gypsy and Funny Girl. I’m not entirely sure why such established works needed to be included in an an evening about new songwriting, but it’s always a delight to hear such classics. Perhaps it may have been more astute to spread them throughout; a succession of ballads in the first act could have benefitted from being broken up by a lighter number.
That said, it was an utter delight to hear the works of so many writing talents who could one day follow in Styne’s footsteps.