There is no denying that musicals are a guilty pleasure for many people. Whether you’re openly a musical theatre lover or there’s the odd one you can’t help but sing along to, musicals make us feel something deeply; joy, sadness, confusion, sorrow, and there’s something so thrilling about watching a talented cast sing, dance and act their way into an audience’s hearts.
53Two’s latest show, ‘Musicals That Made Us’ is a celebration of all of that. Current Manchester School of Theatre student, Nejc Lisjak, and recent graduates Megan Keaveny and Lara Rose Hancox take the audience on an exploration of musicals old and new in a cabaret style performance.
Described as a production that “takes you through the mistakes they’ve made and the lessons they’ve learnt through the medium of musical cabaret”, the piece sits rather oddly in a no-mans land between cabaret and concert. With glimmers of said ‘mistakes’ intertwined between songs, there is too little of an explanation to make a clear and succinct link or story. Dabbling somewhat into life stories through ‘dear diary’ moments, these instances are too few and far between to warrant a clear structure or storyline.
Songs are then separated by what seem like random moments of realism, where the trio talk about what they’re doing on stage, discussing why musicals are better/worse than plays, how the songs they’re singing are niche and how they should end the piece. To give the performance clear direction it needed to focus on one or the other: either choose for it to be a discussion between the trio about musicals and their draw, or use it as a look back over their lives using musical theatre songs to paint a picture.
Despite this, their singing is sublime. In particular, the vocals from Megan and Lara blew me away. Songs included ‘When I Grow Up’ from Matilda, ‘See I’m Smiling’ from The Last Five Years and a beautiful Judy Garland duet. They ended on a high with what they describe as “a song that made all of us”, the Sondheim classic ‘Being Alive’ from Company, sang in stunning 3-part harmony, with powerful emotive energy.
Musical theatre lover or not, there’s no denying the talent within this show. The one-hour production makes for an enjoyable evening where the audience simply sit back and listen to three exceptional singers.
53two continue to provide engaging and unique pieces of theatre and are becoming a buzzing hub for new and emerging talent within the Manchester theatre scene.
You can check out what’s coming up at 53two here: https://www.53two.com/whatson
Reviewer: Alison Baines
Reviewed: 17th October 2023
North West End UK Rating: