27 is a new musical created by Sam Cassidy, co-directed by Arlene Phillips, with music by Matt Wills. It tells the story of wannabe rock-star Jimmy’s rise to stardom, his ambition and his willingness to risk everything to get what he wants, and, tragically, his all-encompassing addiction.
Jimmy takes on the persona of Orpheus (from Greek legend – musician, poet and prophet who could charm all living creatures and even stones with his music), and he seems to believe his own hype as he achieves everything he thought he desired, but he is soon adrift in a sea of drug addiction and fame, where he loses the people who truly cared about him -girlfriend Amy and band-mates Max and Jason – and becomes embroiled instead with Hades (head of Olympus Records) and Ms M, who promise him fame and fortune, at any cost. He comes to his senses and tries to redeem himself after losing his girlfriend to an overdose, but it’s all too late and his story is already written.
The musical has a strong fatalistic thread, with many Shakespearean references and ties to Greek myths. The story is one of darkness and destruction, with the magnetic, sinister, and all-powerful three Fates weaving the story that we know will only end in one way, and Hades and Ms M moving the tale along to its predictable climax. It is perhaps telling that these five are the powerful characters in the show. The human characters are all one-dimensional and under-developed: Jimmy/Orpheus starts and ends the show as an addict, a powerful portrayal, but we see nothing else of his character; Amy, Max and Jason are all weak characters who we never get to know at all. There is no twist; we know the ending. Whilst the story of addiction and love and loss might be one a lot of people can relate to, it lacks other character dimensions to relate to or identify with. Maybe this symbolises the eternal inferiority of the human race, mere pawns in the Fates’ game…
The cast were all phenomenal, with standout performances from the Fates – Jodie Jacobs (Oliver, Legally Blonde, Jest End), Eloise Davies (Cinderella, West End Heroes Bad Girls) and Maisey Bawden (The Sound of Music Live (TV), The Tempest, Little Shop of Horrors)- who all have spectacular voices and shine throughout the show.
Ryan Molloy (Jersey Boys, Godspell, Che Guevara’s Night Off) gave a spectacular, magnetic, enticing performance as Hades and has a great rock voice; and Lucy Martin (Jersey Boys, Mamma Mia, Dirty Dancing) is scintillating as Ms. M, the dangerously seductive messenger between Hades and Jimmy, much like Mephistopheles in Doctor Faustus.
Overall, despite some issues with characterisation and story that need to be ironed out, 27 is an enjoyable show, with moments of utter brilliance, and we’d love to see it on a bigger stage, where the fantastic choreography, costumes, lighting and set could be even bigger and better. The cast are all massively talented singers and actors; the ensemble dancers are all fantastic, performing Ryan-Lee Seager and Lucy Martin’s ingenious choreography perfectly; the music is excellent! The premise of the show, with its mythical and literary references, is very intriguing and engaging; it draws parallels to the fame-crazed society we live in, the public’s cruel love of watching people self-destruct and the indispensable nature of pop-stars. The overall message of the show is haunting – you can’t control fate
Brian Jones, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Kurt Cobain, Amy Winehouse…Orpheus… The 27 Club, all popular musicians who lived their lives in the limelight, all died as a result of drug/alcohol abuse, all at aged 27, all before their time, just another out of control celebrity, just another rock-star who self-destructs, just another name on the list…does anyone really care as the cycle repeats again and again? It’s a powerful, thought-provoking message, and 27 The Musical delivers it brilliantly.