I started Rhys Reviews as a blog to shine a light on new and emerging musicals from all over the world. For just over two years I have been running this blog to showcase shows that do not get the attention they deserve and hopefully help my readers to find a new show to obsess over. Through the eyes of a reviewer, we critique shows to identify areas of improvement and at a professional level, this allows the readers to decide if the show of worth viewing or not but at a more local level is to allow the shows to grow/develop! We have reached that point in our little blogs journey where we are seeing shows go from strength to strength and grow into fully realised spectacles. Four months ago we reviewed the virtual premiere of a new Musical titled Human (which is available at https://rhysreviews.com/2021/03/28/human-virtual-premier-review/ )which was available for free on YouTube and now instead of each actor performing from their own homes, due to social distancing, the team have managed to put on a real in-person production of this new show! Lots of the issues I had about the virtual premiere revolved around the fact that the actors were in different locations and the editing that is associated with virtual productions so I was eager to see how different the live version was. Landon (who I have interviewed on my youtube channel https://youtu.be/JJDxF149H5Q) and the team have taken into consideration how the audience reacted to the virtual premier as many of the notes/improvements they/I suggested have been taken into consideration and there has also been new songs, story points, scenes etc to reflect that!
For those who have not read my review of the virtual production, Human is a musical that tells the story of a town that is pulled into chaos after a radical casting of a male playing the lead role of the ginger orphan (a parody of Annie to avoid legal issues.) This role has the lead LGBT+ character don a dress to portray the whole which causes the conservative community and certain family members to erupt with rage. This production is a full-fledged two-act show with both sections last just over an hour each which must have taken a very long time to direct/organised. Originally the inclusion of a musical inside the musical did feel like an extra layer as Annie is such an iconic movie/show but in this version of Human, it made total sense. I particularly enjoyed the scene where all the characters were auditioning for the Ginger Orphan and the organiser tells everyone to sing the ballad about the sun rising again which is a clear reference to the iconic song from Annie which I found very funny! I also really enjoyed the fact that within the musical they put on a production in a Willow-springs theatre which gets burnt down and in real life the show was performed in a theatre within Willow-springs which has famously burnt down three times throughout history. This sort of meta-story adds another layer of excitement to the story for me and means that it is ever more relatable to any viewer! I have to admit at first I was quite uneasy about the physical stage that was being used as it had the main section of the section which was behind a moving curtain and then an area of the stage in front of the curtain. The majority of the action within the musical took place in the back of the stage which did make it quite difficult to follow but made total sense in the scene in which an on-stage audience are watching a musical within the overall musical. Staging wise my only real concern was the fact that there were numerous points within the show where acts were performing lines or singing songs (which I will discuss later) without any light which makes it very difficult for the audience to follow what was going on.
I loved the opening transition of the musical which goes from a big chorus number to Wendall sat on a table in a very classically musical theatre pose to represent the contrast between his real life and the fictional world! This was so cleverly done and did have me chuckling for quite a while after this was completed. The other key comedic moment in this show for me was during a PTA meeting where the characters wanted to talk ‘outside’ so simply took one large step to the left and then made a quip about only now being outside which again made me laugh! During the first production, I reviewed o talked about how much I loved the song “ode to theatre” and it was only exaggerated during the live version of the show. The show opening in such a wonderfully camp and dramatic manner which I always enjoy and the relaxed interpretive/ballet dancing by the drama teacher was amazing. This role of the drama teacher was fully dedicated to the role and stayed in this over-the-top, theatrical persona every moment they were on stage. During this song, there was a chair dance section that was done by all the pupils and while this made sense as they were all in a classroom sat in chairs in a semi-circle (which to be honest is how I spent the majority of my drama lessons) I do think that this sequence could have been much bigger to add that sense of spectacle I am known to love. My favourite song would have had to have been “dear god” which is a song in while Wendell (who is lgbt+ remember) pleads with god which sets up a wonderful contrast and sense of desperation due to the historic conflict between the church and the LGBT+ community. The song ends with the words “Amen” which shows great attention to detail and ties together the religious undertones of the song.
In the virtual premiere, I talked about “dear god” and “ode to theatre” which were two songs I particularly enjoyed and this enjoyment was only exaggerated during this new production. They had added a new song to this version called “did you hear the rumour” which to me gave off very ‘little girls’ from Annie crossed with ‘the mob song’ from beauty and the beast. This is the villain’s number but I do think it needs some more time to develop as some of the lyrics/choreography did seem somewhat confused and maybe a little more time could have this song develop into the grand villainous vamp it has all the potential to be! “I don’t have a home here” was an incredible performance that truly showcased the performers wonderful vocals. My only concern was that the majority of this song was sung in a blackout and as this was the end of act one you want to vamp up the emotional elements of the song and this is extremely difficult to do when the singer cannot be seen.
Overall, it is great to see this show continue to grow and it’s clear that the advice/thoughts of viewers are held in high regard which is the mark of a great creative team. The show has developed so much since the virtual premier and now contains many very emotional moments. I would rate this product 4 out of 5 stars!