Amy Newell enjoys a night of new writing as Manchester Musical Revue presents two short musicals
Manchester Musical Revue’s showcase of new writing was an enjoyable and impressive night. The band played phenomenally throughout and made it seem effortless; they are a true asset to UOM’s Musical Theatre Society.
The show begins with the short musical 1666 — original songs by Phoebe Lynch — set during the Great Fire Of London. Despite the fact that the cast were only given three days to rehearse, they gave an entertaining and tremendous performance. The company was made up of the talented ensemble of Fenella Wheatley, Sophie Proctor, Michael McQuaid, and Grace Currie.
Proctor starts the show by singing ‘London Town’; her voice is stunning and really stood out for me over the whole night. I did not initially understand how to react to the songs, as the music had emotive lyrics, but the direction made it humorous. Parts seemed deliberately funny, particularly McQuaid and Currie’s duet, ‘Our Future’, where Currie passionately sings to McQuaid and he tries to get away.
Wheatley’s solo, ‘Being Strong’, seemed to be written for a drama but the direction again made it into a comedy. That said, Wheatley sang beautifully.
The night then continued onto The Fear, directed and written by Chris Pope, with lyrics by Calum Pearce and Tom Carswell. The musical follows Ash (James Ward-Mallinson), Ferg (Carswell), and Sam (Anna Toogood) as they go through their final year at university, trying to figure out what to do with their lives.
The musical again succeeded as a comedy — it had me laughing out loud —, as well as being accompanied with moments of real emotion. The direction of the piece worked well as the venue was a cafe, which the majority student audience were able to relate to.
The song ‘The Fear’ was a highlight, as the characters forget what they did the night before, and had people giggling as they can put themselves in the character’s shoes.
One of the most touching moments for me was the song ‘Change’, where the characters realise that life after university might not necessarily be a bad thing. It was a standout song as it had a beautiful, relatable message and was sung with great emotion.
The best song for me, however, was when Toogood dances in a hamster onesie with Ward-Mallinson after his hamster dies. It was both funny and endearing.
The venue and the nature of the audience meant it was easy to resonate with the characters. The delivery was laid back — many audience members knew the writers — who based the piece on their lives and could, therefore, point at someone in the audience when their name was mentioned and people would understand the inside jokes.
This gave the performance a local feel, and these parts would only work if the audience knew the context. The breaking of the fourth wall was a strength on the evening, but I do not think it would translate elsewhere.
Ward-Mallinson deserves a massive shout out for his role, he delivers comedy and emotion in equal measures and had the audience in stitches. He also touched hearts with his supportive and sweet moments.
Carswell’s comedic timing was also great. The scene where Ferg has a conversation with God was a standout, allowing for an important message to be delivered in the setting of a comedy.
Toogood displayed a variety of skills, as she raps impressively and also has a scene where she delivers beautiful emotion, as well as having a confident stage presence. It would have been nice to have learnt more about her character, but the three did work well together and were believable as best friends.
Overall, I enjoyed the evening and it was a lovely musical to be able to see as I and the rest of the final year students approach our own fear of finishing University.