Pros: Brilliant sound quality and excellent execution. I’d definitely watch this show again.
Cons: In the intimacy of a 70-seat studio theatre, I was easily distracted by the obnoxious behaviour of a fellow spectator.
Almost every night since 1994, the Jermyn Street Theatre has been welcoming around 70 people into an intimate space once used as a changing room by the staff of an adjacent restaurant. Listed on Google as a ‘tiny fringe theatre for plays & musicals’, this venue provides a platform to emerging actors, directors and writers, giving them the chance to work in one of the best West End studio theatres. Artistic director Anthony Biggs is committed to offer a fine program of new works alongside revivals of rarely performed classics.
First presented off-Broadway in 1978, then in London in 1981, I’m Getting My Act Together & Taking It On The Road is the story of Heather Jones (Landi Oshinowo), a 39-year old singer who’s turning her career around to express personal experiences and private feelings, against the objections of her manager Joe (Nicolas Colicos).
Amazingly, the topics touched are ever so relevant. Heather is a divorced mother-of-two who’s finally reaching awareness on the hardship of maintaining a ‘decent, constructive relationship’. Whilst women’s instinct of self-preservation makes them believe that happiness is always around the corner, even when it’s not true, men find reassurance in a toxic partnership, which lends them a reasonable excuse to walk away at any time. Delving into their innermost emotions, the two characters are in strong contrast and I can’t help but sympathise with Heather’s concerns and agree with her disillusion.
This clash of genders and priorities is performed brilliantly by both principals and flawlessly supported by the rest of the cast. Kristen Gaetz and Rosanna Hyland – in the roles of vocalists Cheryl and Alice –sing delightfully and provide a casual and spontaneous vibe to the choreography. The live music of pianist and musical director Nick Barstow, guitarist Jake (David Gibbons), bassist Scottie (Alice Offley) and drummer Rich Craig is a treat for the ears and, despite the confined auditorium, is never too loud or shrill. ‘Natural High’ is the highlight of a score which won’t stand out for originality but is equally entertaining. My personal favourite is ‘In a Simple Way I love You’, sweetly sang by Jake to her role-model and secret goddess Heather.
The show is set in the band’s rehearsing studio, with an authentic red brick wall backdrop and an interesting selection of original 70s furniture. An impressive collection of vinyl records fills the shelves, but designer Edward Iliffe’s most exquisite touch is the two black and white pictures of a young Heather, recalling a sequence of the song ‘Smile’.
Iliffe’s decision to keep the period setting adds to the glam of a solid production but it’s easy to imagine the same plot adapted to our times. Nothing in this musical has lost its charm and the urge for emancipation which has marked the 70s comes across vividly through the charismatic acting of Landi Oshinowo.
Regrettably, my enjoyment of such a lovely performance was disrupted repeatedly by a fellow spectator who took advantage of the quietest moments to carry out a deep and thorough clearing of his throat. To make up for it, I’m considering a second take at this well directed and brilliantly executed revival, and I’m convinced that it would definitely be worth it.
Composer: Nancy Ford
Lyricist: Gretchen Cryer
Director: Matthew Gould
Musical Director: Nick Barstow
Producer: SDWC Productions & Edward Iliffe
Box Office: 020 7287 2875
Booking link: https://www.eticketing.co.uk/jermynstreettheatre/list.aspx?tagref=101
Booking Until: 23 July 2016