Reviewer: Holly Spanner
Prodigy is a new musical by Jake Brunger and Pippa Clay. It was commissioned and developed by the National Youth Music Theatre, premiering in August 2015 at the St. James Theatre in London. The narrative follows the nervous excitement of five young finalists in a reality television show, each competing to become Britain’s top new classical music star. Tensions are running high as the live final approaches; relationships are put under the microscope, bitterness and romances alike. There is drama, angst, and romance, all topped with a healthy helping of overzealous and pushy parents.
Has your child got what it takes to be Britain’s next young classical music star?
Originally, televised talent shows were spurned by many in the theatre community, however, they are slowly starting to infiltrate the industry – like it or not. Following on from the admittedly short-lived Viva Forever (seven months in the West End) and I Can’t Sing (six weeks), Prodigy is slightly tongue-in-cheek. It plays on common stereotypes from such talent shows including the highly competitive, the sob-story, the victim, the rivals, and of course, the genuine article. There are underhand tactics, but it’s not just the contestants who are willing to play dirty. TV Producer Melissa (Laura Barnard) is gleeful and big brother-esque in her energetic man-hunt for gossip, summed up in Good TV.
There is real talent in the cast; Prodigy having been written and developed with young actors and musicians, aged 11-23. The musical opens by introducing the five finalists and what drives them to play their chosen instrument: soprano Kate on flute, Luke on percussion, Rupert on trumpet, Claire on clarinet and Jessie on piano. Not stopping with the five main characters, the talent extends to those out of the spotlight (so to say), We’ve Got Talent Too, sung as a delightful old music hall style number by Luke Rozanski (Rupert’s brother) and Hannah Irvine (Claire’s sister), desperate to live up to the achievements of their siblings.
Prodigy has the potential to be an exciting new musical, it’s humorous, entertaining and light, but also touches on sensitive subjects. It is well documented that music therapy can provide natural anxiety relief, treat depression and increase self-esteem. My Clarinet is emotive and passionate, Amelia Thompson doing a sterling job of acting through song, while Block Out the Noise by pianist Jessie (Sephora Parish) is soulful and funky with a sense of yearning, the music bringing her happiness despite the goings on around her.
Spoken interludes feature heavily in the recording, and it’s really up to listener preference as to whether this deters from the music, or adds to the narrative. A number of the songs are less than memorable and are somewhat of a missed opportunity. Really Good, for example, just doesn’t capture that first jolt of passion between Kate and Luke like it could. That is, not to say, that the songs aren’t enjoyable, indeed they are very pleasant, but many end up sounding the same; melodies punctured by speech.
The ending is satisfying if a little short lived. The soundtrack closes with Say it in Song, reflective of the contestant’s journey and the paths they are destined for, and again, it’s Parish’s vocals that resonate with a welcome maturity. Contrary to the overall sound of the album, the title track (and the theme tune to the TV show) delivers something quite different for the live final, in a mix of pop and electronica.
Prodigy is a bit of fun. It doesn’t take itself too seriously and has bright, youthful feel with pretty orchestrations and is pleasant while it lasts.
Prodigy is available to purchase from Auburn Jam Music