Singing, sexually confused teens at a co-ed Catholic boarding school...
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Bare is a musical that has been produced around the US since the year 2000, and after 13 years has made it to the UK. But the question is; were those 13 years lucky, or not?
Well, let's get the unlucky out of the way first. The show is flawed, long, and gets lost in its own melancholy in many places. Where you long for fleeting glances and rushes of excitement that young love brings, you get over indulgent self obsessed ballad after ballad and a heck of a lot of repetition. The good news is, when the high points come, they are high.
Paul Taylor Mills has directed a production that unmuddles the musical, and gives it a much needed focus. Where the musical can occasionally drag, the direction and choreography give you something to focus on, and take you out of another long winded moment. Racky Plews gives a mix of classical and contemporary dance that suits the score, and really shows what a talent the cast are, even if it sometimes overwhelms the space.
The space has been transformed beautifully with a truly incredible lighting design by Tim Deiling and a dark, brooding church like set by David Shields. The costumes, while suitably functional don't really scream catholic private school, there's a lot of questionable hemlines and stockings flashing at you.
The true excitment comes from the talent IN the show. And there is a hell of a lot of talent - vocally and physically. You'll be pressed to find a better sung show off-West End this year.The girls belt up a storm, with the role of Ivy being sung to perfection, with a charm reminiscent of Sarah Michelle Gellar in 'Cruel Intentions', by Lily-Jane Young. Ross William Wild plays the sexually confused (Although, sporting a pair of Andrew Christian briefs doesn't really scream hetero....not that we are complaining) Jason all too well. His blue eyes (and incredibly chiseled abs) will have both men and women alike falling for him before he even opens his mouth. And when he opens his mouth to reveal his sultry pop/rock tones you wont be disappointed, even if his voice sometimes suffers from the lack of amplification.
Michael Vinsen plays opposite and is, without a doubt, the heart of this sometimes cliché show. His heartbreaking portrayal of a young boy in the closet and in love will surely resonate with many, his voice lets you soar through the music with ease and makes the melodramatic score seem believable.
Special mention must be given to Hannah LeVane who provides the only real joyous numbers in the show and a bucketful of star quality. Her numbers allow the audience to enjoy themselves before more wallowing. Hannah's voice and portrayal of sassy Sister Chantelle are a welcomed breath of fresh air and makes you wish we were following this character for much more of the story.
With all its flaws aside, this production of BARE is an enjoyable evening at the theatre, and with a cast this energetic, talented and damn good looking, you'll struggle not to have a fling with this little show. Even if said fling drags on somewhat. I do, however, suspect The Union, the smallest power house in the UK, has another hit on its hands.
Words: Christopher Clegg
GT gives Bare 4/5
Bare is at The Union Theatre, 204 Union Street, London, SE1 0LX. Find out more information and book tickets here