Setting the tone for the New Year can be tricky; but if musical theatre’s proved anything over the last 12 months, it’s the ability to build us up during tough times, and keep us looking firmly ahead.
In the latest Thespie showcase, Together Again sees the talent from hit musical Heathers reunited. Sophie Isaacs, Jodie Steele and T’Shan Williams have a great, natural rapport that makes this show eminently watchable. Starting the show with a Dreamgirls classic, they move into solo pieces, with Jodie Steele reprising her role in Wicked. Singing The Wizard and I, Steele accesses the gear shift in the lyric, moving from character realisation to declaration: we go on the journey as Steele’s voice soars. Perfect for a musical where emotional connect is key.
Together Again isn’t just about career highlights: the girls are given a chance to explore favourite songs from their younger years. Giving retro pop the girl group treatment, the three take on Christina Aguilera’s hit Ain’t No Other Man. Fearlessly exploring those diva-esque runs and trills, the girls dispute the claim that musical theatre can’t be versatile. With Sophie Isaacs performing a song from Mean Girls, the rock-tinged ballad I See Stars, brings us into what’s happening in musical theatre right now. There’s a modern vein of musicals – including Dear Evan Hansen – that merge musical theatre sensibility with pop and rock to produce a very different kind of sound. Isaacs’ ability to combine classic technique with a modern, more intimate level of performance, indicates the way ahead for the next generation.
T’Shan Williams takes us right to the beginning of her musical journey, with Janet Jackson’s 1997 song Together Again. Backed by Isaacs and Steele, Williams’ affectionate delivery is a real mood-lifter – it is impossible not to get drawn in.
The showcase is clearly driven by personal connection: from song selection to the mini interviews dotted throughout the film, Together Again illustrates how connection elevates the songs of musical theatre. From their storming version of Never Enough from The Greatest Showman, to Jodie Steele’s very personal choice of song from The Scarlet Pimpernel, the girls remind us that selling a song is more than reaching those belting notes. Technical virtuosity is always impressive, but it’s the emotional reach that audiences take away with them.
To finish, the girls bring us bang up to date with a song from their latest musical, Heathers. Performing the very funny Candy Store, Isaacs, Steele and Williams are visibly in their element. Fiercely catchy, the song takes us right back to high school – and the mean girls are riding high. Peer pressure has never sounded so good. With Steele tempting us to “fly with eagles”, this song pulls us into the year ahead, and the promise of what’s to come.
This showcase not only takes us through musical theatre’s past, but into the heart of 2021. Together Again blasts the shade of January, and ends on a defiantly optimistic note. Full of fun and great music, this is a beautifully stylish start to a better year.