Unapologetically adhering to a well-established festive romcom template, The Season is a warm-hearted new musical from promising writing partnership Jim Barne and Kit Buchan.
The shallow, saccharine plot sees naïve Northamptonshire lad Dougal visiting New York to attend his estranged father’s second wedding. There, he meets Robin, his cynical, soon-to-be step-aunt. Inevitably, the unlikely pair hit it off, learning important lessons about themselves on the way.
Though the story is familiar, a streak of winning wry humour seriously elevates the script, while smart, self-aware lyrics poke fun at Dougal’s rose-tinted worldview or the sexual subtext of classic Christmas songs.
Performers Tori Allen-Martin and Alex Cardall share some great chemistry too, gradually warming to each other after a frosty first encounter. Allen-Martin is particularly strong, conveying a wealth of conflicting, complicated feelings beneath a believably tough exterior, her deadpan snark clashing entertainingly with Cardall’s jolly, jokey overenthusiasm.
Director Tim Jackson gives each character plenty of time to dwell on their feelings, with slow, tender moments emerging organically from the comedic rush. Between silly skits about maxing out borrowed credit cards and wrecking wedding cakes, there’s time for some reflective, heartfelt sequences addressing loneliness, hope and family obligation.
Amy Jane Cook’s intentionally cheesy set is decked out in street signs, neon lights, and subway maps, all backed by jutting skyscrapers. The band are suspended overhead on a makeshift Brooklyn Bridge, lost in the shadows but laying down a tight and catchy score.