Little Fish, receiving its European premiere at the Finborough under the direction of Adam Lenson, is American composer Michael John LaChiusa's reimagining of two short stories by Deborah Eisenberg - Days and Flotsam.
The musical (or 'play with music' as it may more accurately be described) centres on Charlotte, whose aspirations to be a writer run parallel with her aspirations to quit smoking and get fit. This journey takes her from Buffalo to the Big Apple, where she encounters a variety of characters from coke-snorting flatmate Cinder to gay best friend Marco.
Thematically, it closely resembles Adam Gwon’s Ordinary Days, which made its European premiere in the same space last year, also directed by Lenson. But unlike that piece, or Sondheim's Company (another reference point), Little Fish feels musically and narratively indistinct.
The production features several strong performances, notably from Julia Worsley as Charlotte and Lee William-Davis as Marco, but the fragmented plotline, despite occasionally threatening to spark into life, never really does so.
LaChiusa's libretto is packed with convoluted phraseology (even containing the seven-syllable “anaesthesiology” at one point), but lacks heart. When Charlotte finally reaches her epiphany - “I want to eat lunch!” - one cannot help but feel slightly miffed that such musical and lyrical complexity has been spent on such fluff.
There are certainly plus points - not only the performances but Bec Chippendale's innovative (if blandly coloured) set, the tight orchestrations of Richard Bates and Nick Cunningham's playful choreography. Die hard LaChiusa fans may well have a ball, but I was left hot and not very bothered.