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Stay Awake Jake review at the Vaults, London – ‘earnest, intimate and bold’

Jamie Muscato in Stay Awake Jake at Vault festival, London Photo: Scott Rylander Jamie Muscato in Stay Awake Jake at Vault festival, London Photo: Scott Rylander

Musicals are often about journeys, emotional as well as physical. And so it proves again in the small but perfectly formed Stay Awake, Jake, an earnest, intimate and bold song cycle for a solo performer.

Jamie Muscato plays a man who we observe driving through the night from London to Carlisle to be reunited with an estranged girlfriend. He hasn’t seen her for four weeks. Now he has to make amends for something that has pulled them apart– but also to offer support for something that may link them to each other forever. It’s all set to a beautifully inflected score by composer/lyricist Tim Gilvin that’s alternately melodic and mournful, and reminiscent at times of Jason Robert Brown.

Director Matt Ryan charts a clear narrative journey by the simplest of means: the set is made up of just four folding chairs, casually rearranged to suggest the car and other environments. But it’s the transfixing Muscato – a fast-rising musical theatre actor whose credits have ranged from the lead role in the London premiere of Dogfight to holding his own with an opera cast for Welsh National Opera’s Sweeney Todd to his current takeover role in Bend it Like Beckham – who provides the show’s heart.

Winner of the 2014 S&S Award for New Musicals, when it was performed in an earlier incarnation by Norman Bowman, it has now been brought into focus in a deceptively casual way by Muscato, who lives completely in the moment, so that the show feels constantly fresh and surprising.

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Mesmerising new British chamber musical, superbly performed by rising star Jamie Muscato