Jermyn Street Theatre, London – until 23 July 2016
Gretchen Cryer and Nancy Ford’s 1978 Off-Broadway and West End musical I’m Getting My Act Together and Taking It on the Road is back in London, with plenty to say that is still relevant today in Matthew Gould’s production.
Warm, passionate and feel-good are just a few words to describe Matthew Gould’s production of Gretchen Cryer and Nancy Ford’s musical, which is currently playing in London for the first time since its West End run in 1981. This refreshing production fits wonderfully well into the intimate surroundings of the Jermyn Street Theatre, allowing the audience to really feel involved with what is happening around them.
Set in a recording or rehearsal studio, the musical follows the story of 39-year-old Heather on the day that she is about to come back as a pop star with a concert. The main concern of the story is that Heather wants to make music that reflects her life and outlook of the world, particularly with regards to relationships between men and women – but her manager Joe when hearing her new songs doesn’t seem to be so enthusiastic.
While on the surface, the music and songs seem to keep it light hearted there is a simmering tension beneath that gradually builds into an almighty confrontation at the end.
The reason that the audience feel so involved with the story is down to the wonderfully rounded and intense performances of Landi Oshinowo and Nicholas Colicos. Oshinowo as Heather is by equal measures passionate, stubborn, vulnerable, intense and at times (particularly at the end) selfish. She is determined to voice her views and proud of the fact that she is single without a husband, but after one of her many clashes with Joe – she realises in fact the loneliness of her situation.
Joe as a character is difficult to like at first, but the audience is capable of warming up to him in the light of his difficulties with his wife. Colicos wonderfully portrays Joe’s arrogance but is able to draw out a certain vulnerability and unwillingness to leave his wife – no matter what she puts him through.
Essentially, despite there being other cast/musicians on stage, it is predominantly a two-handed piece, with occasional interjections from other characters such as Jake (David Gibbons) telling Heather he is in love with her. It is a sharp and focused piece of work, that despite Ford claiming that “We were writing about relationships between men and women, not about women’s roles in society as a whole”, has a feel that suggests it is questioning women’s changing role in society.
This is the only minor problem with the musical, it feels as though Heather has too many speeches about how men expect women to behave in a certain way, a message that is hammered home too often to sustain an impact, and makes Heather seem arrogant and selfish at times – particularly when Joe has to rush off to see his wife, she challenges him hurtfully.
The music is a delight to listen to, a mixture of songs with different energies about them that fit in perfectly with what is being talked about by the two main characters. The song “Natural High” really does leave you feeling joyful and optimistic – a natural high in fact, while David Gibbon’s (Jake) performance of “In a Simple Way I Love You” is wonderfully simple and beautiful to listen to. The music is performed by cast and musicians with a wonderful spirit that makes the audience want to hear more (there were two encores at the end).
It is a wonderful way to spend an evening in terms of the music and performances, even if the examination of men and women’s relationships drags it down slightly. Worth a watch because who knows when it will come back to London again.
I’m Getting My Act Together and Taking it on the Road plays at the Jermyn Street Theatre until the 23rd July. For more information and to book tickets visit: http://www.jermynstreettheatre.co.uk/show/im-getting-act-together-taking-road/.