There’s a certain level of chutzpah in the title of Damon Intrabartolo and Jon Hartmere’s sung-through musical about star-crossed gay lovers at a US Catholic school. It suggests something grander than it is. First staged in LA in 2000, it’s been performed Off-Broadway and in Canada, but this London production is rather underwhelming.
This is by no means the fault of the main couple – Peter and Jason, played ably by Daniel Mack Strand and Darragh Cowley. It’s down to the premise itself. The American high-school setting means it’s pitting itself against some pretty formidable opponents, but it lacks the wit and warmth of the classics of the genre and uses stretched notes and rhyme schemes to cover up the fact that it’s not actually saying a great deal.
The school setting also presents a tough casting choice: do you use actors far too old to be hanging around lockers, or go with genuinely youthful performers? Director Julie Atherton has chosen the latter and the leads just don’t yet have the chops to carry a show of this length. Some undoubtedly will do in the future – Lizzie Emery stands out as the jilted Ivy – but it feels almost cruel to pit them against The X Factor USA finalist Stacy Francis, whose forceful set of pipes provides the best moments.
The staging is also an issue, with the wide but shallow set-up of the space at the Vaults ensuring the actors either have their backs to half the audience at any one time or are out of sight on the other side of the room.
The show hasn’t been staged in London for some time, but on this showing it hasn’t been worth the wait.