BOSSY at the Brentwood Theatre
Jonathan Larson's 90s hit - “musical theatre for the MTV generation” - makes heavy demands on any company bold enough to stage it. The “School Edition” we see at Brentwood makes few concessions to the age or experience of the performers: a few music cues trimmed, the text purged of bad language and the more obvious drugs references, that's all.
BOSSY give it a powerful, brutally honest staging, with some impressive performances and excellent support from the unseen band in a variety of musical styles.
The female leads are doubled. On opening night, a brilliant Mimi from Lydia Abbotts, sassy, vulnerable and impeccably sung. Drama queen Maureen done with suitably extrovert style by Ellie Rickenbach – her OTT “performance” very well sustained. Ivy League lesbian Joanne a hard character to master, but Jodie Tarrant brings a likeable directness to the role.
Mark, who narrates the story, is played by Joe Folley. A compelling performance, with huge presence and one of the best voices in a strong cast. Dan Pugh is his room-mate Roger, a believable struggling musician, he gives a confident, captivating account of the role. Benny, the landlord who sells out then sees the light, is intelligently portrayed by Michael Percival. Rob Hill's Angel is subtly and tenderly played; his duet with Collins very moving. This gay, anarchist professor of philosophy is a huge challenge. Sam Loader's finest moment comes with his funeral tribute to his lover, clutching the coat and fighting the tears.
Excellent support from the whole company; the voicemails, for instance, with a scene-stealing cameo from Tomi Bello as Alexi Darling.
The staging is imaginative and effective; only occasionally is the mood broken by darkness, silence and messy movement. The levels are well used, with colder, harder lighting for the upper stage.
The storyline, despite life-affirming dialogue and a clunky happy ending, is grim and gritty. The music is not memorable, only Seasons of Love, the simply staged anthem that opens Act Two, sticks in the mind.
So all credit to director Gaynor Wilson and MD Andy Prideaux, for giving their young cast a chance to tackle this iconic milestone in the history of the American musical.