Just over a year ago today the world was still reeling from the spectacle that was the brand new Tik-Tok musical Ratatouille (if your interested in reading what we felt about the show you can read our thoughts at https://rhysreviews.com/2021/01/02/ratatouille-the-tiktok-musical-review/) If you didn’t hear about this phenomenon it was a musical performed by Broadway greats such as Titus Burgess, Andrew Barth Feldman, Adam Lambert and Kevin Chamberlin with scenes/songs that had been created on the social media platform Tik Tok. On top of the inclusion of famous faces, collaborative musical numbers this concert also helped raise just under $2 million for the actor’s fund. This was the start of a big movement of Tik Tok which highlight the variety of musical theatre talent that many of its users possess. There have been numerous people who have been scouted via Tik Tok and now appear in west end musicals, many original songs that gained popularity through the app and many dancers have been able to showcase their incredible skills to a much larger audience. I know there are many dangers to the app but if used correctly can be a very powerful tool for inspiration. Take this blog, for example, just over two years ago the UK has put into a nationwide lockdown which meant that theatres and music venues had to close but we wanted to continue to shine a light on new musicals. Via the Tik Tok app, we were able to discover many new shows and were able to connect with them to promote their work. We recently discovered a user by the handle @themusicaldealer who dedicated a year of his life to ranking the best concept album that had been released that year. For anyone interested, the video is available at https://www.tiktok.com/@themusicaldealer/video/7048270406989532462?_t=8OiVBjFLQqU&_r=1 and while we may not totally agree with all of their rankings it is an incredibly helpful tool for us to identify new musicals from all over the world!
It was through this video that we discovered the new recording of The Anxiety Project which the title itself instantly caught my interest. The story follows a young female called Avery who is completing her degree in psychology and to do so must carry out a series of case studies into the effects of mental health. As each case study is done Avery becomes more and more invested into the lives of the participants but after one case that comes a bit too close to home for her that our lead character decides that maybe mental health is a lot of than a few statistics and numbers. The show shines a really important spotlight of the ideas of suffering, loss, struggle, alienation, friendship, brokenness, love, hate, and everything that comes with anxiety and depression disorders and other mental illnesses which can only benefit any listeners who are experiencing similar things. The first thing that this show does is aim to normalise the idea of going to therapy which is such an important tool to be promoting. Over a quarter of people in the UK will experience some sort of mental health problems so for this show to promote such a helpful tool is so important now more than ever. When I experience my own mental health issues I was initially sceptical of therapy as I viewed it as simply sitting down and chatting with someone which I thought I could simply do with anyone of my friends or family. After my first session however my opinion completely changed, the empowered and uplifting spirit I left that room has yet to be replicated! While I know there are many powerful self-help techniques and tools that can be used to help (such as adult colouring books which I wrote about at https://rhysreviews.com/2021/07/02/the-power-of-gratitude-product-review/) with mental health issues but I think the idea of sitting down and chatting to a therapist is transformative.
This show comes from the incredible pairing of Rachel Dean who composed the music and David Brush who created the words. This is an album comprising of twenty-two tracks that covers just over an hour worth of music and It is clear that these two creatives are passionate about mental health issues and either have experienced similar situations or have carried out extensive research into this field as the story/character are hyper-realistic and relatable. The opening number of this album is titled “Today and Everyday” which talks about the range of emotions people with mental health issues experience every day. This song contains songs such as “it’s all in my head” and “I am worthy that’s what the pamphlets told me to say” which are insanely common things for people experiencing anxiety or depression disorders. The song that follows this is called “think about that” which is sung by a very optimistic female character that makes a point to introduce herself as a multiple characters who experience anxiety disorders rather than it being the only thing that defines her. This song also highlights the stress of university life and writing a thesis/dissertation (which is made even more overwhelming right now with the online learning prevision currently in place.) I was lucky with my university experience however as the most intense unit during the three years at university is the dissertation but due to the COVID-19 outbreak, I had to complete an English dissertation without reading a single book!
I thoroughly enjoyed the light-hearted and comedic number called “RDJ and Me” which is a hypothetical love song between the female lead and the Iron Man actor Robert Downey Jr. This is a very fun musical number which I imagine is a high energy song that is staged as a wonderfully over-the-top performance which is almost dream sequence with a fantastical wedding inspired costumes. This one happy song contrasts the more serious and powerful numbers in the show which was a nice bit of comic relief that helped to break up the entire album. The songs “Don’t be Crazy” and “Three days without breathing” were incredibly powerful songs that perfectly capture the common ideas of anxiety and depression disorders. The former song is a song that is portrayed by a male performer who is waiting for a response to his text to his significant other. This delayed response sends our character into a negative, overthinking mental spiral where he is aware of how crazy this overthinking makes him appear but he cannot stop it from happening. I have been in one of these situations where you are aware of how wild these overthinking episodes are but have become an almost instant reaction when something is a little off. The latter is a very emotionally intense song where a character tries to explain the physical symptoms of these mental health disorders which were incredibly powerful to listen to.
My favourite number in this entire album recording would have to be “So anyway” which was a wonderfully awkward duet between two characters who have not seen each other in a very long time. The song managed to perfectly capture the awkwardness and shyness of these sorts of encounters always brings. The song constantly repeats the title within the song which is truly reflective of these encounters but also creates a lovely cuticular structure to the song. Where the song “Clarity/confusion” manages to portray the moment where everyone becomes clear and our lead character Avery realised that mental health is so much more than statistics and numbers while simultaneously discussing how pain cannot be compared. Something that many people do not realise is very damaging to those who experience mental health issues are when someone tells them that they have a harder life or have more to be anxious about. This is simply invalidating other people’s struggles and makes them even more conscious about themselves / their actions. The show ends with “back then (reprise)” which talks about there is no point that mental health is magically fixed but instead a journey that at times more be difficult and sometimes easier.
Overall, this is a very important show that offers an honest and real look into the love of people who are suffering from mental health afflictions. If this song just manages to normalise people going to therapy then it will be a successful difference that will make a massive impact on the lives of people who are struggling. However, the show also discusses other coping strategies and potentially damaging habits that people with anxiety experience. I would rate this show 5 out of 5 stars and would recommend it to those who are experiencing or want to learn about those who are experiencing mental health issues.
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