[Could get closer]
There are many edges at which we arrive in our lives; leaving home, losing friends, falling in love, breaking up, and while the gravity of each is justified with respect to the individual life lived, it’s difficult to take anything away from a show written by two 19 year olds when it doesn’t introduce anything new to, or beyond, the quarter-life crisis. Written by the youngest ever Jonathan Larson Award winners, Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, Edges is a song cycle of 15 (with an optional additional six) independent musical numbers about the various precipices to which life can lead.
For those unfamiliar with the development of the genre, Rebel Theatre has provided Auckland audiences with an introduction to the new age of musical theatre. Large ensembles and Civic-sized stages are no longer necessary for musicals to make an impact. Unfortunately, the reality of what Rebel Theatre has achieved is underwhelming.
The cast (Leanne Howell, Jonathan Martin, Awhimai Fraser, Tainui Kuru), undoubtedly have the prowess to perform vocally, but mic issues and sight-lines in Galatos result in them either holding back or projecting in odd places – at the mercy of inconsistent theatrical necessity rather than the songs themselves. Occasionally, this is also due to forced or gestural emoting in Jason Te Mete’s direction, an ‘amateur dramatics’ styling which Tainui Kuru however successfully employs.
As a song cycle, Edges doesn’t require a director to present the show beyond focusing on the performances within the vignettes. The overriding theme is inherent in the songs, and to push this any further, as Jason Te Mete does, becomes confusing at best. The introduction of Rebekkah Schoonbeek-Berridge’s choreography in the second act is a jarring spectacle element, which goes against the nature of letting the singers tell their stories through the lyrics as opposed to showing us the literal and interpretative movement of the subjects within them.
The universality of the overarching theme means the show is easily adapted to the Kiwi cultural landscape (‘Monticello’ becomes ‘Invercargill’), but it’s not a necessary change – the large koru backdrop being more of a cultural intrusion when compared to the content of the songs.
Rebel Theatre has put forward a solid, albeit stereotypical, production of a musical that has a lot of sound, but no bite. There’s no doubt the comedic value and vocal work by the cast will be a welcome change to both theatregoers and non-theatregoers alike, however, a successful step in the right direction for musical theatre in Auckland requires a more daring leap.
Edges is presented by Rebel Theatre and plays at Galatos until July 16. For detail see iTicket.
SEE ALSO: Theatreview.org.nz review by Nik Smythe