The crisp up-tempo score suits this cast vocally and the musical direction of Peter Wilson offers strings and keyboard accompaniment that complements the action so accurately that at times this musical scans like a play. Pie Ramsey’s sparse lighting design catches the ephemeral scene so accurately the stage fills with emotion.
The actors fit their super-sized roles superbly. Luke Daking as blockbusting young novelist Jamie cuts the mustard with an assured swagger. His scene on a bar stool swigging a ‘Bud’ unleashing much pent up frustration about the trouble with marriage is particularly strong. Rachel Parris has fine beauty in her voice, expressively clear eyes and an acting style that is not in the least bit self-aware. This equips Parris to portray Jamie’s wife, the struggling actress Cathy who tries to make the best of her dismal theatre tour of Ohio. Jamie accuses Cathy of baulking at the strain of her career being harder than she thought when Cathy refuses to go to Jamie’s book launch. Cathy explains her reasons for being unsupportive quite differently. She does not want to be ‘trailing on the genius’s heels’.
Intrigue arises from the ingenious plot format; two perspectives are being told from different points in time. Cathy begins her tale from the point of the couple’s break up and walks onto the set, which is the couple’s New York apartment, wearing her husband’s jumper and a cardboard box to put her belongings in. Hotshot Jamie kicks off by firing rounds of mobile phone calls to prospective literary agents and wallowing in the heady ecstasy of falling in love with Cathy. The stories intersect only on their wedding day.Another key moment is the Christmas where Jamie presents Cathy with a watch encouraging her to take all the time she needs to follow her dream. In spite of this warm life-affirming gesture there is a pervasive desolate feel to the proceedings making the action fascinating to watch.
Director Cooke-Hodgson needs to be afforded full credit for giving this precious quality to the production. A stand-alone musical comedy number is Cathy trekking through the cattle market of auditions, getting up at 6am to queue alongside younger and thinner girls who have already been to the gym and wondering, ‘why does the pianist hate me?’ then ‘why did I wear these shoes?’ Be one of the first to see this show before its cult status becomes official.