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Out There review at Union Theatre, London – ‘terrific songs’

Scene from Out Theatre, Union Theatre, London. Photo: Scott Rylander
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The Union Theatre, now relocated to a brand-new space across the road, is a space I’ve previously dubbed the National Theatre of fringe musicals and they are continuing to uphold that title with a succession of interesting new shows.

Last year, in the old space, they offered a spirited, vibrantly choreographed version of James Bourne and Elliot Davis’s short-lived 2012 West End musical Loserville. Now they present the professional premiere of a new show, Out There (like Loserville commissioned and first produced by YMT:UK), that once again shows Bourne and Elliot’s youthful daring in creating an entirely original story and populating it with a series of sparky, attractive pop and country-inflected songs.

While Loserville looked back to the birth of the internet, Out There is about an entrepreneur’s desire to launch a commercial space travel programme when his troubled son stumbles across his long-absent grandfather, a former astronaut, who is improbably building a space craft in his barn.

The story may be full of black holes, but Michael Burgen’s scrappily engaging production deliberately gives it a low-tech feeling with a set made out of cardboard boxes that takes flight even if its difficult to believe the space craft ever will.

Partly this is thanks to strong performances from Luke Street as the tearaway Logan Carter and Neil Moors as his father, but it is the solid grounding of Dave Willetts as the still-dreaming astronaut that gives the production weight. Willetts was famously the first take-over from Michael Crawford in the West End’s The Phantom of the Opera – it’s good that both of them are currently back on London stages, and both in new British musicals.

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Terrific songs and performances paper over the plot's improbabilities in this entertaining new musical