Music: Grant Olding
Choreographer: Drew McOnie
Reviewer: James Garrington
The intimate studio at Leicester’s Curve theatre provides a wonderful venue for the premiere of Drunk, the inaugural production of the McOnie Company. Founded by up-and-coming choreographer Drew McOnie in October 2013, the company aims to bridge the gap between musical theatre and traditional dance by bringing together performers and creative talent from different branches of performing arts, to create work that encompasses the best of many different genres.
Set in a bar, Drunk is an exploration of alcohol, and how what we drink says a lot about us. If you think that sounds a bit heavy going, you couldn’t be more wrong. The show follows the journey of central character Ice as she is waiting for her date. While she waits, she meets a number of different characters, each helping her understand something about herself, and although this is in some ways a story about Ice’s increasing self-awareness, it is much more than that. It is a stunning mixture of dazzling choreography and superb vocals, against a backdrop of delightfully varied music. Each drink gets its moment in the spotlight, performing their own routines almost in Nutcracker style but with a very modern and vibrant feel, helping Ice to tell her story. The routines are at times very funny, at others poignant, and always brilliantly conceived and executed.
The eight performers on stage work incredibly hard throughout. They are led by Gemma Sutton as Ice, fresh from her rôle as Roxie in the Curve production of Chicago, and who shows that she can not only produce some outstanding vocals, but she can also dance as well as the professional dancers around her. Not that she is the only one who can sing: we are treated to a delightful Vodka by Lucinda Laurence, while Anabel Kutay’s Absinthe also hits the mark. Highlights include a touching routine by Ashley Andrews (Scotch) and Fela Lufadeju (Rum), and a very memorable Pimms section. Katy Lowenhoff is a sparkling Champagne with a twist in the tail, and the talented group is completed by Simon Hardwick (Cider) and Daniel Collins (Martini).
Grant Olding’s witty and nostalgic original score is beautifully played on stage by a jazz quintet, and also contains some memorable numbers, some of which would easily stand on their own as pure vocal pieces. Olding writes in a variety of styles, bringing different eras and locations to life, and it is clear that a lot of work has gone into bringing the music and choreography together to create the final result.
The final mention has to be Drew McOnie, who is, quite rightly, fast becoming one of the most sought-after choreographers in the country. He has learnt his craft from one of the greats, Matthew Bourne, and introduced a touch of Bob Fosse into the mix, then given the whole a generous amount of his own interpretation. What he presents us with is dance that is vibrant, varied, and at times almost intoxicating, all overlaid with vocals and so creating a piece that is a genuine fusion of styles, and in the process creating a very memorable style of his own. He is most definitely a name to watch out for, and I am very sure that we will be seeing a lot more from him in the future.
Drunk is fresh, lively, and sexy. Don’t miss it.
Runs in Leicester until 1st February 2014, then at the Bridewell Theatre, London until March 1st
Photo: Sean Halidy