Pros: Many of the show’s tunes catch the ear and get the toes tapping. The plot is quirky and intriguing. The acting and the company are fully energised and together.
Cons: For a show styled a musical comedy, the laughs are pretty thin, few and far between. In the second half, the plot begins to lack punch.
Liberty Rides Forth! sounds like a strange prospect for a musical. Set entirely in one apartment, the show follows Trevor, an aspiring but uninspired writer, who is looking to write something sensational to win the girl of his dreams, Susie from his office. He is to be helped in this effort, as the opening number makes plain, by three ‘apprentice’ muses looking to earn their stripes. But the job of inspiring the hapless and uncommitted Trevor looks doomed. Things go further wrong when a botched charm helps to summon Liberty, a muse-gone-wrong-sprite-in-drag who promises to help Trevor write the greatest erotic novel of all time, based on….her.
It’s a promising set-up which surprised and engaged me. The show’s first half is mostly strong, fast-paced, bewildering fun. The numbers (played with expert gusto by musical director Michael Roulston) are mostly rollicking, especially those where Liberty dictates the story of her life to Trevor, in song. There is plenty of variation and skill – the muse’s piping tunes, Trevor’s heartfelt ballads and Liberty’s sassy wit all hold their own through score. I wish that the wit persisted through into the dialogue. It is here that the show is weak, and the burden of sustaining the quirkiness factor falls too much on Liberty. William Hazell does a good job of making Trevor more sympathetic than the stiff bumbler that the script sometimes confines him to, although a little too unsympathetic to hold our interest.
The cast of five give it all with gusto and carry through the moments where the writing doesn’t shine. Dereck Walker’s Liberty is the high-octane standout, participating and running the show in most numbers, but Georgie Faith, Chloe Rice and Emma Scott make a fine unit of muses to spar against. Susan Raasay’s direction is smooth, not drawing attention to itself as the intimate, single setting plays host to the back-and-forth between Trevor, muses and Liberty in their sparring for the fate of Trevor’s erotica and his own love-life. Jasmine Davies’ costumes for Liberty are appropriately fabulous
The show’s second half is where it lets itself down, and the final half-hour or so left me feeling that there was a great deal it had to do to wrap up satisfyingly while also expanding its wackiness. I was disappointed when events felt like they had begun to trickle rather than flow, groping towards an ending rather than satisfyingly carving one out. However, without giving anything away, the closing scenes return zest to the proceedings and somewhat redeem the second half.
Liberty Rides Forth! is a definite worth-the-watch for musical fans in search of good tunes, a good attitude, and mostly a good time. I only wish it had had the courage of its strangeness and been a little more carefully crafted, which would have led to more satisfying payoffs come curtain. Still, there is plenty to like.
Author/Composer/Lyricist: David Kent
Director: Susan Raasay
Producer: David Kent
Musical Director: Michael Roulston
Choreographer: Stuart Rogers
Box Office: 020 7928 0060
Booking Link: https://waterlooeast.ticketsolve.com/shows/873587735
Booking Until: 21 October 2018