35mm: A Musical Exhibition review at the Other Palace, London – ‘a hit and miss musical’
The concept behind Ryan Scott Oliver’s song cycle – 15 songs based on 15 photographs – is that each picture captures a moment, which is expanded into a story through song. But only a few of the songs prise open their corresponding photos, which are projected onto the back wall. The rest, like the pictures themselves, are fairly flat.
The increasingly prolific Adam Lenson directs – this is his fourth musical in six months – and he has a real knack for unearthing small-scale pieces, shows that approach the art form slightly askew, and turning them into really decent fringe productions.
While this isn’t the best example, it still has its strong points. After a few iffy numbers, the show picks up with a run of decent songs towards the middle, the highlight being The Seraph, sung by Gregor Duncan, which showcases a lovely, lonely voice as it sings a sort of folk spiritual about a watchful angel.
Scott Oliver’s music varies in style, encompassing rock and folk, and it gently pushes at what musical theatre can sound like. But he really needs to get a lyricist. The references to MacBooks and ‘palpable hard-ons’, rather than giving the piece a contemporary edge, feel very forced.
These are clearly difficult melodies to sing, but there’s a lack of accuracy from the singers too. The cast of five isn’t wholly up to the challenge. While there are a couple of voices that sound strong individually – Samuel Thomas and Duncan in particular – they clash as an ensemble and there are lot of missed high notes.
Lenson’s direction deftly uses the tiny stage of the studio space, but the production doesn’t make the best of the material, and the material doesn’t make for a brilliant production.