“I Could Use a Drink”, and couldn’t we all after the year we’ve had? Originally a successful streaming event, tonight Drew Gasparini’s “I Could Use a Drink” made it’s west end debut at the Garrick Theatre, London. First released in 2013 as a contemporary Musical Theatre album, exploring a range of themes from love and heartbreak to teen pregnancy, producers Liam Gartland and Alex Conder (of Gartland Productions) transform this album to a staged production.
Whilst the original album features an array of Broadway’s biggest names, this cast certainly gives a well overdue opportunity to showcase some of the young west end stars of the future. And what an exciting cast this is: Ahmed Hamad (Rent), Billy Nevers (& Juliet, Jesus Christ Superstar), Caroline Kay (Daisy, The Space Between), Luke Bayer (Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, Soho Cinders), Maiya Quansah-Breed (SIX, Rent), Olivia Lallo (GSA 2020 Grad), Roxanne Couch (ArtsEd 2021 Grad), Callum Henderson (The Show Must Go On!) and Alex Condor stepped in last-minute.
Sitting with the audience tonight there was a definite buzz and sense of optimism anticipated of this production, and without a doubt it lived up to it. The show opened with all the cast casually seated onstage as if reunited around a campfire, with an arrangement of candles, books and suitcases adding a cosy and intimate feel. Even though each song told a different story, the seamless transitions made the show cohesive and took the audience on a journey with each character.
With such an exceptional cast, it’s almost impossible to identify standouts from the night. That being said, Kay’s rendition of “What Remains” was an outstanding moment in Act 1 – along with perfect vocals, it was drowned in emotion and authenticity. This Act was then closed with what can only be described as the “Billy Nevers Show”, he led the song “Good Stuff” and the rest of the cast supported. Nevers, and his sublime voice, was so at home onstage, providing the perfect end to this Act. The second half brought even more foot-tapping and diverse musical numbers; I particularly enjoyed the continuing narrative between Lallo and Hamad’s characters, which culminated with Hamad’s accomplished rendition of “No turning back now”. Also during this act, the original male/female duet “I Just Can’t Stop” was performed by two powerhouse women Quansah-Breed and Couch, a genius directorial change by Condor, which was enthusiastically received by the audience.
Award-winning composer Gasparini couldn’t fly in as intended to play the keyboard for this one night only event. However, Musical Director Flynn Sturgeon, along with this seven-piece orchestra, were faultless and provided the perfect accompaniment to the terrific cast.
Perhaps the biggest applause tonight should go to Gartland Productions for making this all happen. Gartland Productions are also offering two nights at the Phoenix Arts Club (3rd and 4th August) where anyone can use the submission link www.gartlandproductions.com for the opportunity to perform a song by Gasparini in front of a live audience.
What a shame… “I Could Use a Drink” could use a West End run.
Reviewer: Sophie Graham
Reviewed: 2nd August 2021
North West End UK Rating: ★★★★★