We seem to have a morbid fascination with stars on a path of self-destruction. Fame can put a lot of pressure on a person. And we have witnessed individuals struggle and fall again and again – from Jimi Hendrix to Kurt Cobain and Amy Winehouse. 27, a new musical by Sam Cassidy, deals with this phenomenon: The road to fame and how quickly it can end in tragedy. Told as a modern fable we meet Jimmy (stage name: Orpheus) who is trying to get his big break with his band. He is young and full of dreams. One fateful day he meets Ms. M who introduces him to the CEO of Olympus Records. Orpheus becomes a star. But with stardom comes self-destruction.
Sam Cassidy has written a story about love, loss and the price of fame wrapped in a mystical narrative. It is an interesting concept and most of the time it works. One could argue that turning the CEO of the record company into the devil and his assistant Ms. M into Medusa is a bit of a cliché. On the other hand this is a modern day fairytale with all its classic elements: Villains, magical ingredients, a challenge the main character has to face and a lesson to be learned.
I enjoyed the score even though I did not find it particularly memorable. It serves the story with a good mix of upbeat rock songs and ballads. There are some strong voices in the cast, Jodie Jacobs (Fate) and Ryan Molloy (Hades) being the stand outs. Ryan Molloy in particular brings a special buzz to this production. His Hades is just the right mix of evil and funny and steals the show whenever he is on stage.
Cassie Compton is very sweet as Orpheus’ girlfriend Amy. Jack Donnelly (Max) deserves a special mention for his strong acting performance.
The staging is innovative and works well in this intimate venue. A warning for those who do not handle strobe lighting well: There is a lot of it. Although the space is limited Arlene Phillips has put together a vibrant choreography using every inch of the stage (and more – watch out if you are sitting next to the stairs on any of the three sides of the auditorium).
Personally I think this show could do with a bit of tightening up. Act two in particular felt a bit too long with the quest lasting forever without seeming to go anywhere. Maybe a 90 – 100 minutes one act show would be the right thing for 27.
I left the theatre impressed by the show’s concept and most of the cast. 27 is a new musical and will only grow with time. There is huge potential for a show with an important message and I hope it finds an audience willing to come along on the ride.
27 is playing at the Cockpit Theatre until October 22nd. For more info and to book tickets visit http://27-london.com.