Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Review: Picture Perfect , St James Studio


“Perfect,
If you ignore the guilty sex,
And the constant phone calls from his ex,
It’s perfect”

The studio space of the St James Theatre has proved fertile ground for bringing new musical theatre work to London and United Theatrical now return there for a third time with an American composer. This time it is the turn of Scott Evan Davis whose Picture Perfect – a new musical is receiving its world premiere in a short four show run. A contemporary musical song-cycle running at just over an hour, Davis, along with the show’s conceiver Simon Greiff, aims to puncture the myth of ‘the perfect family’.

It’s a curious set-up though, modern-day society is hardly one that is characterised by such idealistic notions and what soon comes to the forefront is in fact the crumbling of marriage as an institution. Ellie is involved in a loveless affair with a married man because he’s rich, Josh is having a more involved liaison with a guy but again he’s already taken and after many years of marriage, Elizabeth and Harry (Josh’s parents) are coming to terms with its collapse, for it is he who is cheating with Ellie.


In the midst of all these inter-connected relationships though, not a huge amount actually happens. Elizabeth and Harry’s marriage is particularly underwritten and the pair simply fade away from the show in the final third despite strong performances from Helen Hobson and Jérôme Pradon and though Charlotte Wakefield’s Ellie is perfectly pitched, she remains something of a vague character. Joel Harper-Jackson fares best with Josh, who features most heavily and thus feels most like a rounded character, we even find out that he was the most erudite 7 and a half year old letter writer in the world in ‘Dear Santa’. 

The boutique production style fits the material well though. Colin Billing’s musical direction from his piano, augmented by Sarah Bowler’s beautiful cello-playing, highlights Davis’ clear gift for a stylish melody, his influences most definitely coming from the new musical theatre school (c.f. Jason Robert Brown et al). And the cast of four were each well-suited to their parts, sounding like a dream when singing altogether and their vocal confidence papering over the cracks of a show that is in need of quite a bit of restoration before being unveiled again as truly picture perfect. 

Running time: 65 minutes (without interval)
Booking until 1st June
Photo: Jamie Scott-Smith

Originally written for The Public Reviews

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