Composer: Alexander Bermange
Director: Paul Foster
Reviewer: Maryam Philpott
There’s nothing more exciting than a night at the theatre; whether you go all the time or once in a while, as the curtain rises we love to lose ourselves in completely new worlds. But sometimes the backstage world of diva tantrums, understudy sabotage and cruel directors can be just as delicious, and fans of TV dramas like Smash will relish the semi- fictitious setting of Alexander Bermange’s new revue show I Wish My Life Were Like a Musical which has its premiere outing Live at Zedel near Piccadilly Circus.
Bermange’s 80-minute show uses four performers to chart the progress of a young wannabe from first audition to star of the show, taking in all the pitfalls, compromises and challenges along the way. Combining musical theatre stylings with a touch of vaudeville, Noel Coward and Victoria Wood-style comic observations across 18 comic songs, Bermange has hilariously compiled a collection of anecdotes and warnings that reveal the struggle behind the seemingly glitzy world of showbusiness. Each told with tongue in cheek humour and just a dash of a genuine bitterness,
One of the high points of the show is the integration of performer and audience perspectives, from the mock opening number (called The Opening Number) to the final encore nobodies wants with enforced curtain calls that delay everybody’s exit, Bermange wryly comments on the burden of being in and watching a dud musical. It feels all too true, and everyone will recognise the many frustrations I Wish My Life Were Like a Musical taps into.
Using the style of a narrated journey, the Company capture the growing disillusion of the performer forced to take an unsuccessful ‘Guest Spot’ in someone else’s show, to being a permanent and unfulfilled understudy for some big star – the song Standing By performed with charm by Liam Tamne is a joy as he complains his name will never be on the poster and audiences boo if he ever has to perform because the star they’ve waited a year to see is off.
Bermange includes plenty of technical challenges for his performers too; The Audition gives Diana Vickers the change to perform her song in many different styles of voice from a rock diva to an angelic princess, while Suzie Mathers is superb in I Love to Sing responding to the constant changes of pitch as well as having to land notes off key to amusing effect. Mathers also explores her impressive range with the star number The Diva’s in the House which is a nicely observed exploration of theatrical arrogance and self-interest.
The show takes quite a broad approach to the experience of musical theatre, and whether Bermange mocks the prissy preparations of Tamne in Only Then Can I Truly Perform which has a great twist, or the consequences of obsessive fandom as Mathers is stalked by Oliver Savile’s eager admirer in When A Fan Loves a Woman who goes through her bins and attends hundreds of performances, you’ll be nodding your head in recognition all the way through.
With so many songs either performed by individuals or by the full company, arguably a little more variety in the format, a few more duets perhaps, would add value. Despite the odd stumble, the performances are warm and engaging, enjoying their character’s failings but spurring them on at the same time, ensuring I Wish My Life Were Like a Musical feeds our fascination with life behind the scenes.
Runs until: 17 April 2018 | Image: Contributed