Book, Music and Lyrics: Lourds Lane
Director: JoAnn M. Hunter
Despite being one of the many theatrical casualties of the pandemic, Lourds Lane’s SuperYou had a good lockdown. The superhero musical was meant to open Off-Broadway, but with socially distanced performances in the open air and with lots of posts on social media, especially TikTok, SuperYou garnered fans worldwide. Some of these fans are in the audience for a one-off concert performance in London at the Lyric Theatre. Still somewhat of a work-in-progress, SuperYou is a fun evening but the story seems a little thin.
To those superfans, the songs are very familiar, but for others, the numbers may need a few listens before they become catchy enough to sing on the way home. However, there is great variety and the songs range from rock to hoedown, from pop to blues. But none of them really stands out on first hearing.
Of course, the cast gives it their all; too much of it at times. Everything song is belted out as if we’re watching the final of The X-Factor. The most successful tracks are the quieter ones. It could be that the mics aren’t quite set at the right sound level as often lyrics are distorted and some singers sound as if they are shouting rather than singing. But for a one-night event, everything else works as it should.
SuperYou’s story is pleasant enough. Lucie Jones plays Katie a comic strip artist who specialises in drawing superheroes, a talent she nurtured when was younger to combat the bullying she endured at school. She turned her schoolfriends into superheroes too and sometimes these characters appear in her dreams as she fights off a monster called MiRoar. A little lost after the death of her brother, Katie enters an Illustration competition to win $100,000. She could use the prize money to help her alcoholic mum.
But it seems as if the songs are more important than the book here, although the romance between Katie and Jay is nicely played. Every character receives their own song, and although it’s fair to give everyone their time in the spotlight it means that the musical’s first half runs to almost 90 minutes. Lane herself plays Rise, the superhero brandishing her violin as a weapon. Her voice, a little like Cyndi Lauper’s, complements the more traditional musical theatre singing from the others.
Joni Ayton-Kent’s Seven is a sassy delight while Sharon Ballard blasts out her numbers as the aptly named Blast. As Ima-Mazing, Jenny O’Leary has a wonderful bluesy tone. When they sing together, their different voices blend perfectly as seen in the strong opener We Are Awake. Aaliyah Monk, as young Katie, is excellent too and does well with the rap sections in one of her songs.
However, most people appear to have come for Lucie Jones and she even gets a mid-performance standing ovation for the power ballad To My Angels, though perhaps the song’s climax occurs too early and goes on for too long, robbing it of any possible nuance. But for certain, Jones can sing. She’s matched in the vocal department by Luke Brady who plays Jay, the love interest and his first song is beautifully performed. There is also good work from a confident Jonty Peach who plays Matty, Katie’s geeky brother. It’s a shame there’s not more of him.
SuperYou’s length is a problem though, and the show surely would be even longer if fully staged with set changes and extended choreography. Could there be one less superhero to speed things up? Or if the story were more complex, perhaps the running time would be more satisfactory. And does Jay’s character need a rethink, or, failing that, at least Katie’s reaction to his unexpected infidelities could be less passive?
The transition from viral success to real life of course won’t be easy and there’s some work to be done before SuperYou can grace the stage for a longer run. But for a musical that is still in the making, it’s got a remarkably big fan base which will guarantee its future.
Reviewed on 15 November 2023