Reviewed by Michaela Clement-Hayes
The Hope Theatre
Performance date: 10th December 2013
I’ve never worked as an Usher but I know a few friends who grace various London theatres with their presence, so I was curious to see how their story would be told. Five minutes in and I’d been inadvertently insulted several times (not only am I a theatre critic, but I’m also a gin drinker and a stagey! Sticks and stones).
Ushers takes place during a performance of Oops! I Did It Again – a musical based on the songs of Britney Spears (yes, I’d love to see that) – and follows one group of Front of House staff.
New girl Lucy (Abigail Carter-Simpson) has arrived for her first day as an Usher and immediately falls for Stephen (Ross McNeill). Meanwhile Ben (Liam Ross-Mills) and Gary (Will Jennings) are having problems with their relationship because Gary has finally caught a break… an acting job in Austria.
The space in The Hope Theatre is very small and limited, so the actors have to remain on stage but hidden in the audience at times, which is a shame. However, this is what Ushers do, so it may even have been deliberate!
Although the Ushers’ stories are being told, the show is interspersed with excerpts from Theatre Nation’s handbook that define useful terms such as ‘on the rocks’, ‘flyer’ and ‘crush’… These are then followed swiftly by a homonym that sums up how a certain character is feeling. This is an interesting idea that works well and is believable of how a trainee would actually define the phrases as they mock the organisation that’s “making theatre better”.
The music and lyrics by Yiannis Koutsakos and James Oban vary somewhat, but most of the songs are charming, particularly Dreams & Ice-Creams, which Carter-Simpson performs beautifully and The Parts I Could Play.
Ralph Bogard, as Robin, once again impresses with his lovely, rich voice and captures the essence of his character well; meanwhile Chlöe Brooks has great fun playing the ditzy Rosie. The cast work well together and all relationships are believable, although no doubt they will develop over time.
The show is, as expected, quite cheesy but it’s well-researched and funny, with plenty of sly digs at West End Shows (e.g. From Here to April; Paint Never Dries etc.) that the audience love! Writer James Rottger has produced a clever musical that is very tongue-in-cheek, but still manages to have its sentimental moments.