I want to start this review by stating a preface… I have never written a musical, it is way beyond my knowledge and experience to be able to sit down create music, characters, a narrative etc and so anyone who has the drive/talent to do so is insanely impressive. I imagine creating an original musical is a bit like having a child. At first, you have this tiny, little idea that does not particularly resemble what it’s going to look like later in its journey. However, as a parent, you love and support your ‘child’ as it grows but it takes a lot of time for it to become a fully realised being. Raising a child/making a musical is difficult at the best of times especially when you are a ‘young parent.’ Landon Hudson is the writer of “Human a new musical” and unlike most premier events, he and the cast had developed a fully structured 2.5 hour musical during lockdown which is no easy task. Everybody working on this project should be proud that they were able to work together to produce an original piece of theatre despite everything that is currently going on! The live stream of this virtual premiere took place on YouTube and is still available at https://youtu.be/iQLzIkYbB1w which showcased both original songs and scene of dialogue by the cast involved. Each performer was recording from their own homes which must have been very difficult to duet and to perform scenes between multiple people on your own but it was very clear that everyone possessed a different set up/audio quality.
The story follows a ground of young people who live in the Missouri town of Willow Springs who are notorious for their traditionally religious views. A small community theatre group decide to put on a production of the ginger orphan (which is a parody of Annie) but gender swap the lead role to be played by a young LGBT boy which causes outrage within the local community. Similar to ‘The Prom’, this show is set in modern times with a community that is outraged that someone is expressing themselves and they justify this anger through the guise of religion. The writing of this show is very clever as it accurately represents the teenage characters thoughts, feelings and mannerisms. They have managed to capture the complex blend of anxieties and excitement young people possess which truly helps to build the sense of a modern and relatable setting to all that watch it.
As discussed earlier this is a show created during the current lockdown guidelines and so the performers are recording from their own homes. This means the show was developed in zoom which will ks a good replacement for lobe theatre there are some limitations to this software. The cast did their best to try and present as of they were in the same location but due to the way, it was filmed some of the physical performance-based elements (eg kisses, hugs etc) did not translate well in this virtual format. I imagine that when performed live, these elements will be more clear and easier to comprehend but due to the physical distance in place, these did come across as difficult to watch. Each scene change was introduced by a voice-over who talked about the setting and I found this unusual as it could have easily just been done through a blackout. Due to the distance, the case was not able to have standardised costumes, backdrops etc so I see the purpose of the voice-overs in that regard bit did take you away from the developed musical vibe of the show. This premier was a showcase of the show in its very early stages at a time when producing theatre is very difficult so an initial introduction shows a lot of promise. However, I would suggest that if this concert was done again it would have been edited to make the transitions from scenes and cast leaving the call more smooth and consistent. Also, we could hear a lot of notifications going off on someone’s laptop that were quite distracting and at one point we could see someone’s personal Facebook on the screen with the audio of the scene going on. For future performance, these distractions should be ironed out which would make it much easier to watch.
Within the musical, the song were a combination of Acapella and original backing tracks that had been developed just for this concert. The opening number was a fun ensemble number that helped to introduce the characters to the viewers while generating the energy that any opening number should. There has never been a more perfect day to release a musical that contains the track “ode to the theatre” as it was released on March 27th which is international theatre day! This song contained references to a lot of modern musicals but did seem to focus more on a slanderous track to the naughty child in the class called Shane. I found the song “Dear God” to be a very emotionally powerful song that discusses the desperation the main character was feeling. This is particularly interesting as this song is delivered by the LGBT character who is the one leading the charge for the radical casting and so to see a gay character discuss talking to god is particularly important. I found the chorus of this show to be so cleverly written and wonderfully performed which repeated multiple times throughout the show which I loved! Some of the songs in the show were pre-recorded (which I think could have been done for all the shows so they could have been edited to benefit consistency within the show) including “the good old days” which is a heavily character-based show that discusses memories of yesteryear. This was a very hilarious role that could match the likes of “Little Girls” from Annie with regards to a character-based comedy scene. My favourite song in this show was “I have no home here” which is delivered just after the lead Windon had run away after his family had discovered what he had been doing. This was a very powerful song that many people would be able to relay to. The vocal runs at the end of this were incredible to listen to!
Overall, this virtual concert was a showcase of this new musical in its very early stages. It explores some very important themes such as sexuality and self-expression omong other withthe one particularly poignant lyric within this show was “orphans done have penises” as this shines a light on the misconception about only girls being orphans. There were some alcohol use and strong language within the show and so it is suited to a more mature audience. The use of zoom was needed but could have more carefully being considered to ensure a high-quality viewing experience and so as it currently is I would rate this production 3.5 out of 5 stars but I have no doubt this show will only go from strength to strength!