Watching In Pieces, it occurred to me how influential Rent has become for modern theatre writers. Jonathan Larson’s biggest hit set a basic template for the portrayal of twenty-somethings living in the Big Apple with his tale of love, life and loss, told through intelligent songs driving the narrative. However, the difference here is that we have a musical on film that’s sung throughout, so doesn’t feature connecting dialogue between the songs. There’s just enough detail in the lyrics to follow a broad narrative, but it feels like a studio cast album that Andrew Lloyd Webber might release prior to a new musical launch. Nevertheless, the piece works as an effective showcase for the songs and the talented young cast.
Filming this musical in a deserted shopping mall is slightly disconcerting; a bit like someone borrowing the keys and putting on a show whilst the city sleeps. Under current circumstances the only alternative is a bare stage, so this does at least show an eerie sense of imagination. The premise of the narrative is a simple one: our love lives are in pieces and constantly changing, but you never know who might be around the corner if you only take the chance.
Eight characters are gradually introduced and they all perform admirably, but those with the strongest songs remain longer in the memory. Alex (Amy Di Bartolomeo) and Hunter (Luke Street) get the show on the road with You never know, as their misfiring relationship becomes a recurring theme. Lonely barista Austyn (Kyle Birch) dreams of meeting his soulmate over coffee (In My Head) while Charlie (Ross Harmon) explores his sexuality in Me and Mr Popularity. He gets the green light from Grey (Jorden Luke Gage) in Let’s Get a Little Crazy. Jael (Beccy Lane) hopes love will find her on Facebook, while aspiring diva River (Danielle Steers) longs for the perfect man in Young Kind of Love but laments a seemingly lost love in With him. Alex and River join Sam (Hiba Elchikhe) on the Beyoncé-inspired You Don’t Miss Me; arguably the best song of the set.
All the songs work perfectly well, but the show is missing a real showstopper, which might be more apparent if it were a full scale stage production. The lack of a clear narrative also nags; a relationship between the characters is only implied in the title song and Singing the Same Line. Such anomalies are easily remedied, but context is an issue when viewed on this basis. To see this musical performed on stage would be a revelation. A live musical accompaniment with audience and cast reacting to each other would seal the deal. All the raw materials are there, it perhaps just needs a measure of refinement?
Music & Lyrics by: Joey Contreras
Directed by: Louis Rayneau
Produced by: Future Spotlight Productions
Musical Direction by: Ed Court
Choreography by: Rachel Sargent
In Pieces is avaialble to stream until 26 April. Further information and booking details via the below link.