The trials and tribulations of twenty-somethings in the twenty-first century is not the simplest premise for a musical and so it would take a talented writer to be able to create something genuine and an equally adept production team to bring it to life.
While it is suggested from the opening song that the four characters out together on a summer's day are facing challenging inner battles, they are never fully explored nor are any of these issues of much depth. One of the characters struggles to commit and having recently given it a try with a rich beefcake, its her turn to be dumped. Another is struggling with the fact that his father abandoned his family, but the song is worded in such a clichéd American way that it doesn't translate to a British audience.
With only an hour to play with, exploration of every issue mentioned is asking too much. Unfortunately, it appears a little disingenuous for this song cycle to sell itself on dealing with the challenges of being in your 20s and finding meaning those when it mostly focuses on shallow, ambiguous, relationships.
Director Adam Philpott suggests in the programme that this production tries to explore how the questions posed by the songs change the dynamics of the friendships; however this is simply confusing, and you're never quite sure what the group dynamic here actually is.
While the numbers about relationships focus on real issues, they are often patronising. There is a number about having a gay boyfriend, "Man of my Dreams", which finishes on the line 'if he doesn't want to tell me, I don't want to know', and the penultimate song, "Ready to be loved", suggests love is the answer they have all been looking for when what they really need is to focus on becoming three dimensional human beings. The one exception is "Perfect" about a controlling boyfriend, which captures the dependence and destruction well.
Although the script is lacking, the performers have the skill to make this show enjoyable by being able to pull off full-on musical numbers, which were written for large Broadway theatres, in a cosy 96-seater space. Christine Modestou, who recently starred in a much stronger US adaption, In The Heights at the Southwark Playhouse, Rebecca Jayne-Davies, Thomas Henson and Luke Street are each given the opportunity to show off their range and control.
The sparse set and limited choreography, with the exception of "I Hmm You", allows their vocals to be the centre focus and it would be reasonable to think that if any casting directors visit the Tabard the cast won't struggle for work in the future.