The Gatehouse Pub creates a quaint ambience and a surprisingly spacious upstairs theatre for this heartfelt, catchy, entertaining musical.
On New Year’s Eve of 1999, a new millennium is about to dawn where a dinner party of family and friends – many of whom mix like water and oil for most of the night – bring humour, sincerity and an abundance of conflict to this performance. As midnight edges nearer, the audience are taken on a journey through the hosts’ failing marriage, betrayal, new resolutions, new meetings and changing of past mistakes. The night alters the lives of all involved, revealing the fragility and explosiveness of love, family bonds and friendships.
The scene opens on a modern, expensive New York apartment. An elegant piano, leather couch and stylish bar reflect a life of luxury that, as the night progresses, slowly reveals its deep-rooted pretence – a fraud of perfection that neither host really believes in anymore. Throughout the performance, this expansive cast demonstrates a wealth of talent with each soloist, particularly Stephanie Parker, Miranda Wilford, Tash Holway and Lucyelle Cliffe, displaying finesse, confidence, stage presence and a wonderful control of vocal chords. In such an intimate space, the volume was perfectly pitched and the scenes were choreographed beautifully.
The song about cigarettes and quitting is brilliant, with the whole ensemble gathering like a Greek chorus commenting and bantering with joviality whilst dancing around the room. This joyfulness contrasts poignantly with truth-filled songs of unreached dreams and shattered expectations. But just when you think the tension is running too high and you can’t take the pressure, a scene between Edward (Newley Aucutt), the socially-awkward software creator, and Muriel (Lucyelle Cliffe), the spinster neighbour, brings comic relief as she confesses her desire to make love to him. It is hilarious and wonderfully executed in a sexy, funny and rather endearing way.
The audience are kept hanging on thin wire, wondering which guest Christopher West (Ashley Emerson) has had an affair with, whilst also wondering whether love is going to blossom and friendships/family ties are going to stick. The musical intertwines humour, satire and bitter heartbreak with a dénouement ending in the ultimate lesson of one needing to love oneself and put oneself first sometimes – to stop pretending and performing for everyone else.