We all know how these sorts of shows go. Teen angst musical – check. Stereotypical characters – check. Cliché and lack lustre performances? Absolutely not.
Despite this story not being terribly unique and certainly not being the best written musical, director Paul Taylor-Mills has turned this potentially 2D show into a production which is definitely worth seeing. Emotional, and with stunning singing, Bare makes for a heart wrenching, poignant and thought provoking night out.
The basic premise of the story is a boy-meets-boy love story. But it isn’t that simple in a Catholic School when you’re 17. In St Cecilia’s school, Peter (Michael Vinsen) is in a relationship with his closeted best friend and most popular boy in the school, Jason (Ross William Wild). Unable to cope with his feelings, Jason tries to hide their relationship by doing what is expected of him – sleeping with the popular girl, Ivy (Lily-Jane Young), but he doesn’t consider the repercussions.
Neither gay nor religious, I didn’t think that I’d relate to this. However, anyone that went to school, has been a teenager, dealt with identity crises, been in love, been rejected or grasped hopelessly for acceptance from peers, parents or, in this case, god, will be able to take something away from this production.
In this first British production Taylor-Mills has set the bench mark pretty high, shaping this piece from the ground up. Well created sets and stunning choreography, including some beautiful interpretive dance pieces, has resulted in a production which will pull the heart strings of most.
With such a gifted cast it is difficult to focus on just a few. The stand out performances from the women include Malanie Greaney as Nadia in her first professional performance, who is accomplished and convincing in both the comic and, more importantly for this production, the emotional moments.
Hannah Levane as Sister Chantelle has an incredible voice which is powerful and versatile, and Yvette Robinson as Peter’s mum, battling with the realisation that her son is gay, has exactly the right amount of sentiment and feeling.
From the men: Ross William Wild and Michael Vinsen as the protagonists Jason and Peter have great chemistry and their battle with what they were feeling is clear to see. One of my favourite, if not slightly predictable, scenes when Peter steps in to play Juliet in the school production of Romeo and Juliet, really showed the sexual tension and love between these two boys. The best male voice on stage was without a shadow of a doubt Dale Evans as Matt – particularly in his duet "See Me".
I wasn't overly enamoured with the first half and the songs are not particularly memorable; although the incredible five part harmonies could not be faulted but within five minutes of Act Two, I was won over. In the final scenes, I couldn't hold back the tears and I wasn't the only one. I don't think this will be the last we see of Bare.