“Certainly a spectacle to be remembered…

Sunday the 12th of November marked the opening night of the musical cabaret “I Wish My Life Were Like A Musical”, performed at the Assembly Rooms Theatre by Durham University’s Musical Theatre Troupe. It was certainly a spectacle to be remembered.

Charlie Holliday shone, delivering a warm yet enigmatic performance, infused with real feeling. Rory Maguire gave a lesson in flamboyance, playing up to the typical notes of musical theatre with due diligence. Indeed, the whole cast rippled with enthusiasm, as did the audience, who applauded throughout.

George Cass stole the night with his rendition of a humble understudy, called upon at the last minute to fill in for an unwell male lead – Cass’s character’s moment in the spotlight – only to be shunned by the audience, who detest the presence of this upstart in place of the big star. Cass eloquently evoked hope and optimism turned into jaded disappointment and regret in this particularly stirring performance.

The production moved through various comedic tropes of musical theatre: jealous divas and actresses backstabbing to get on in the cutthroat theatre scene, bitter has-beens (and never-weres) fighting for the last remnant scraps of fame from the dark jaws of total obscurity, characters forgetting their lines or getting flustered on the stage, regrets about what could have been. At one point life mimicked art when one member of the cast actually did forget their lines, but they responded to it deftly; after some prompting from the pianist they recalled their place and burst into uproarious song – to resounding applause from the supportive audience.

The show romped along. The production roamed (usually without a hint of a break in the action) from one set-piece comedy scene to the next. Each ebullient song was followed by a break of the fourth wall, as the actor addressed the audience regarding whatever theme of musical theatre they had been musing on. While this approach did usually work smoothly, there were occasional moments of grating or pause. However, any somewhat unpolished transitions did not linger too long in the mind – the show was simply too resplendent with humour as it rolled from comic moment to comic moment.

The command of music was excellent. Skilled pianists Daniel Hicks and Feya Hartley provided exquisite and lively musical accompaniment to each scene, which harmonised elegantly with the singing and dancing of the troupe.

I Wish My Life Were Like A Musical was a strong performance and made for an invaluable asset to the rich musical theatre scene in Durham.

By Dan Bavister

Photo Credits: Durham University’s Musical Theatre Troupe