Adding Machine: The Musical was first developed and performed in 2007 in Illinois, before moving to New York in 2008. In 2016 it was revived at the Finborough Theatre in London for a short run. Based upon American playwright Elmer Rice’s 1923 play The Adding Machine, the musical adaptation retains the expressionistic and non-realistic approach of the original.
Mr Zero is a faceless accountant in a big company, unrewarded at work and nagged at home by his wife, he loses himself in the numbers his job involves. Things go wrong when instead of the company celebrating him working there for twenty-five years, they lay him off, replacing him with an adding machine. Mr Zero loses his temper and kills his boss, to be arrested, tried and then sentenced to death by hanging. After he dies he finds himself somewhere called the Elysian Fields (although it bears little resemblance to the place in Greek Mythology) where he becomes settled, only to have a rude awakening when he is told his soul is being sent back to Earth.
The entire play is somewhat esoteric in nature which makes any sort of understanding or empathy with the characters very difficult. The arcane emphasis is created through the often discordant and erratic music by Joshua Schmidt and libretto by Schmidt and his writing partner Jason Loewith. The cast work hard together to contrive a logical narrative, but it is often a losing attempt. Joseph Alessi as Mr Zero with Kate Milner-Evans as his wife give sterling performances with excellent support from Edd Campbell Bird, James Dinsmore, Joanna Kirkland and the rest of the ensemble cast.
Director Josh Seymour tries to keep the show moving but even with his, Movement Director Chi-san Howard and Musical Director Ben Ferguson’s best attempts, there are places where the play grinds to a halt. Through both language and tone the musical version of The Adding Machine, shows clearly it’s basis in a play that is nearly a hundred years old and very much of its time.
While Adding Machine: The Musical isn’t terrible, unfortunately it isn’t particularly brilliant either. If looking for an entertaining hour and a half watch, this is not for you, but if willing to work with the wayward individuality of Adding Machine: The Musical then it’s worth giving it a go
Reviewer: Helen Jones
Reviewed: 16th October 2020
North West End UK Rating: ★★★