By Alice Lim
What if your life were like a musical? What is your agonizing pre-show routine like? How does it feel to be performing your solo and hearing someone else practising it next door?
These questions and many more were answered in Alexander S. Bermange’s revue I Wish My Life Were Like A Musical, performed by the 2023/24 Durham University Musical Theatre Troupe and coordinated by Amy Shelmerdine and Hannah Sheppard. Having myself several theatre experiences, I was struck by the amazing ability of all performers to be simultaneously passionate and painfully relatable at the same time.
Each member of the cast showcased comedic chops throughout, with acting through song (and in several cases acting without song) being funny and witty. The overall range of expression delighted me, with Harry Allderidge’s increasing amounts of desperation during his ever-higher number “The Key Problems” and Isabel Askew’s clear talent in acting the part of a talentless singer in “I Love To Sing” being two such numbers. Incredible sustained notes and vibrato were present in Misha Joshi and Melissa Redman’s performances, and Issey Dodd kept the audience and fellow cast members captivated with her powerful vocals in “The Diva’s In The House”. This range also extended itself to movement, as Charlie Holliday demonstrated impressive physicality in singing while leaping around the stage, whereas George Cass enthralled the audience with “Standing By” from one spot. It seemed at times as if hesitation was present, but this was quickly smoothed over by clearly well-rehearsed movements.
Small, charming details, such as Rory Maguire’s musical gargling of water and Emily Philips’ perfectly-delivered Russell Crowe line, added to their already impressive vocal talent. Duet numbers are very well performed, with the vaguely uncomfortable atmosphere of Holliday and Charlie Moscrop’s “The Kiss” as well as the sweetly creepy dynamic of Phillips and Francesca Horgan’s “When A Fan Loves A Woman” both executed to their fullest. While some of the spoken transitions between songs are delivered a little too boldly, they are still clearly committed to. Particular praise must be given to the two musical directors and pianists, Daniel Hicks and Freya Hartley, who, aside from playing wonderfully, have great chemistry with every actor who interacted with them throughout the show.
The choreography of the show (by Shelmerdine, Holliday, and Horgan)certainly deserves a mention, with group numbers such as “The Opening Number” and “A Step Too Far” showcasing the best of the performers’ abilities while managing to remain hilarious and on-brand for the self-awareness the revue displays. The lighting also helped to enrich the experience of the show through a combination of lovely colour washes and projections, with well-placed spotlights accurately giving performers their chance to shine. I felt as though the microphone volume was not entirely consistent throughout the show, as some performers were a little harder to hear while others could be heard blowing into their microphones; nevertheless, this did not dampen the performance much and could be overlooked by the talent on display.
Overall, this production is a very tongue-in-cheek, yet dedicated, look at all the different struggles of what goes into and what is behind a musical. I heard a lot of laughter as well as recognition from those around me in the numbers, which is a testament to how brilliantly the cast and crew were able to engage the audience. A great way to have spent an evening, I look forward to what the troupe will next accomplish – as the revue begins, I loved the opening number, and much more besides.
Image Credit: Durham University Musical Theatre Troupe