Probably the best amateur production of a musical I’ve seen, Lift is a story about strangers in a lift, all in the perspective of a street busker.
Set in a busy Covent Garden tube station lift, we are crammed into the tight space with a Busker, a Secretary, a French Teacher, a Bright Young Thing, a Ballet Dancer, a Lap Dancer, a man that is Tall, Dark And Handsome, and a young girl who is Athletic And Wearing A Thong. Have you ever been on a lift with such a cast of characters and couldn’t help but think: “Who are these people and why are they here?” this musical explores the concept of that.
When I first heard of the concept of LIFT, earlier this year, I couldn’t help but ridicule it, and think to myself WHY someone would write a full-scale musical about one minute in a lift. A few weeks later, I purchased the video recording on Digital Theatre (the original London cast). I wasn’t too blown away, but slightly impressed. The concept was brilliant, but, like any video recording of a live performance, I wasn’t hooked.
When I found out that local musical theatre group Music Theatre South were producing LIFT in October 2016 at the Stage Door in Southampton, I knew I’d love to go. This wasn’t my first time with either MTS or the Stage Door, as I saw two performances of MTS’ production of RENT in October last year at the same theatre, which wasn’t exceptional, but it was a brilliant production and I was glad to have seen it’s first preview and final performance.
Come October this year, a few days before the first performance, I wasn’t too intent on going to see LIFT. Come Friday, the night before the final performance, I thought “Screw it, I’ll go and see LIFT tomorrow.”
I’m glad I did.
From the moment we entered the auditorium (which is situated above a noisy bar, a small little fringe/cabaret venue), we were immersed into an abstract Covent Garden station. The thrust staging really worked with the show, we decided to sit on one corner, so we could see the front of the stage but also the side. the “stage” is sat in the middle of the auditorium, where seats would usually be if using the usual proscenium staging, the stage was a raised platform, with four poles on the corners, with another platform on top, forming a box-type, to show the lift. The band were sat on the theatre’s permanent stage.
From the moment the audience entered the auditorium, Liam Baker, who wonderfully played The Busker was stood on stage, with a guitar and case full of pennies. Slowly, the other cast members entered the stage. None of them left the stage throughout the show.
The actors weren’t mic’d as this was a very intimate show, which I feel was a poor decision as there were many solos we couldn’t hear over the ensemble’s other verses, and sometimes the singing and/or dialogue couldn’t be heard over the walking around the stage (which was very loud, especially in the opening number.).
Adam Myers took the challenge of directing a sort of abstract piece and adapting it facing three sides of audience. He did it beautifully, though some of the jokes weren’t conveyed due to the staging, but for the most part it was beautifully. The vocals were extremely strong, and the vocalist that stood out for me the most was Imogen Johnson as The Bright Young Thing. Her rendition of Lost in Translations was gorgeous, she has an insanely strong range and amazing vibrato control. She was insane.
The Lap Dancer, played by Sam Frith, was beautifully acted. Her singing voice too was beautiful, my only critique would be she has very natural hand movements when she sings, which aren’t controlled. When she sung It’s Been A Year, her hands often would flare out and then she’d hold her stomach. That needs to be controlled, but other than that she was an absolutely beautiful performer.
The production on a whole was amazing. Beautifully directed, and beautifully performed. It’s an extremely non-naturalistic piece, yet it’s naturalistic at the same time. The staging was so different to that of the London production, but this production could be mistaken for the London production.
Music Theatre South have put on an extremely well-done production. I wish I could see it all again in the future…perhaps on a bigger stage?
PS: Interview with the writers of a new Jack The Ripper Musical coming Monday, and coming up: Reviews on the new London production of Side Show and review on the long-awaited West End production of School Of Rock!