OUT THERE, 3Star***, London, To 08 October

Book, music & lyrics by Elliot Davis & James Bourne.
3Stars ***

The Union Theatre to 08 October
204 Union Street, London SE1 0LX to 8 October 2016.
Tues-Sat 7.30pm Mat Sat & Sun 2.30pm.
Runs 2hr One interval.

TICKETS: 020 7261 9876.
Review: William Russell 24 September.

A musical show out of this world
Nothing starring Dave Willets is going to be a waste of anyone’s time, and he is backed up, as is often the case at the Union, with a very good cast but this new musical by Elliot Davis and James Bourne, with the best will in the world, is still a work in progress. But even so it is worth its stars.

The plot is quirky and ambitious – astronaut Ned Carter in 1969 is taken off a space mission and, after his wife dies, leaves their five year old son David with his aunt and disappears. In due course David marries and has a son, Logan, a delinquent with a chip on his shoulder who goes on the run and is given a letter by his aunt to someone in Hope, Texas, who might give him shelter.

It is, of course, Ned and grandfather and grandson form, after much huffing and puffing, a bond. Ned has a secret. In his barn he has been building his own rocket and wants to journey to the stars. Meanwhile the good folk of Hope, a town of no hope, are negotiating with a multi millionaire businessman to buy land to set up factories which, they hope, will save the town. The would be buyer is, of course, David Carter.

It is a nice enough plot mix – broken relationships, environmental issues, commercial space flights, and small town America heading for the scrap heap, but it needs a lot of work to make it dramatically effective.

The score by Davis and Bourne has too many songs which are really long speeches set to music – the curse of Sondheim in fact – and only two numbers really stand out – Learn to Dance, a charming romantic ballad which closes both acts and the rousing chorus number for the townsfolk of Hope, Things are looking up, which opens Act two.

The result tends to the monotonous, all long phrases and nothing much happening. Willets, white of hair and gloriously grizzled, is impressive as the curmudgeonly owner of the land at stake and Luke Street as bad boy grandson Logan has both a good voice and a strong, perky stage presence. Logan is a bit of a prat, but Street has more than enough charm to make one care about what happens to him. There is also nice work from Imelda Warren-Green as the dungaree clad local maiden and car mechanic who falls for Logan. But the best thing in Out There remains Willets, a performer of vast experience. Davis and Bourne also wrote Loserville, which made the West End and was revived here by director Michael Burgen, who given the limited resources available, has put Out There on stage with style.

Ned Thomas: Dave Willetts
Logan Carter: Luke Street.
David Carter: Neil Moors.
Jamie Pack: Imelda-Warren Green.
Sheriff Marti Pack: Melizza Veszi.
Billy: Adam Pettit.
Stan: Rhys Owen.
Celia Carter: Jodee Conrad.
Linda Wares: Melissa Bayern.
Hope Carter: Thea Jo Wolfe.
Norman Carter: Shane Gibb.

Director: Michael Burgen.
Musical Director: Joe Louis Robinson.
Choreographer: Lisa Mathieson.
Set Designer: Nik Corrall.
Lighting Designer: Iain Dennis.

2016-09-25 14:34:26

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