This enjoyable, family-friendly musical adventure is the first in-house production from this new theatre based in a former Sunday school in Chorlton, Manchester. An original musical - and one, with its Edwardian setting and dual realities, awash with nods to JM Barrie, Lewis Carroll, Philip Pullman and L Frank Baum - seems a bold choice for a maiden production. But then Janine Waters and her Waters Edge Arts collaborators are clearly nailing their colours to the mast - almost literally in the case of designer Kevin Freeman’s set constructed from scaffolding poles, which sees scenery flown in precariously via creaking ropes and ladders, adding to the production’s low-tech charms.
Jos Vantyler (Fausto) in Dreaming Under A Different Moon at The Edge, Manchester
The story sees an attention-seeking girl being whisked away to a parallel world where the arts have been outlawed after sipping her playwright father’s laudanum. The girl, Cassie (played with wide-eyed charm by Paislie Reid), joins a troupe of selfish, squabbling but ultimately good-hearted fugitive actors who have been cast adrift in a fuel-less steamboat. While Waters’ inventive dystopian state shows promise, the narrative can sometimes feels as underpowered as the characters’ mode of transport, and Simon Waters’ songs, pitched somewhere between the Sherman Brothers and Stephen Schwartz, are pleasant but don’t linger long in the memory - save for an amusing satirical Weimar era-style ditty and a rousing closing song thanking the audience for its patronage.
But despite this, a brilliant cast and an infectious central message espousing the power of the performing arts carry you along, with the production at its best when poking affectionate fun at theatricals - as personified by Jenny Platt’s diva-ish Eliana and Jos Vantyler’s pitch-perfect dandy Fausto. And, while no instant classic, it all adds up to a refreshing and imaginative alternative to Manchester’s more traditional festive offerings.