Wow, it’s been a very theatrical week on the blog, no? Absolutely not a peep of complaint from me about that – a week filled with books to read and plays to enjoy is just my cup of tea!
On Wednesday I headed over to Trafalgar Studios to see Vanities. I’d heard a lot about this musical and the play it was based on and was excited to see a UK premiere of a work – it’s always so great when shows make it across the pond. I was also intrigued both by the subject matter and the cast of three; I am a sucker for a trio of females heading (or in this case being) a cast. One of my favourite musical scores ever is The Witches of Eastwick, mainly down to that supremely strong female trio at the centre, so I love to see shows with that amazing central core.
Vanities follows the lives of three friends, Joanne, Kathy and Mary as they move from high school to college and then out into the world. As all life paths do, their paths diverge and against the background of the 60s, 70s, and 80s we see these friends grow and change. From naive cheerleaders to mature women the show offers an opportunity to see the relationships alter, break, morph and repair, as friendships so often do.
I loved the show. The story itself is fairly good, if a little predictable at places, but this leaves ample room for some cracking songs and three fantastic performances. In a cast of three there is nowhere to hide, and the three leads all sing beautifully, act their bobby-socks off and show a great amount of comedic timing as well.
As Joanne, Lizzy Connolly is brimful of southern charm and has a judgemental streak a mile wide (hidden beneath a surfeit of sweet tea and ‘bless your hearts’, of course) for the first three acts, before growing up sharply and growing into herself as the show draws to its close. Ashleigh Gray’s Kathy is the quintessential high school queen who loses herself a little as she grows up, and Gray infuses the role with not just pep but pathos. Lauren Samuel’s Mary is a brittle, strong, ambitious character, and I loved her struggle with the mores of the time and the place, and the way that she grew just as much as the other two women, even when she wasn’t expecting to.
The songs in the show fizz and are full of gorgeous melodies and great harmonies – in the small venue you are never more than a few feet from the performers and each note was rich, well-placed and gorgeous. The proximity to proceedings also meant that one particular on stage costume change was a triumph of choreography!
The staging of the piece is great as well – Studio 2 at Trafalgar Studios is small, with a stage the size of a sitting room, but the set design used up the floorspace brilliantly, with shower curtains, mirrors, tessalating furniture and an abundance of time-correct props helping to convey a real sense of place and era.
Vanities was an utter treat. I was thoroughly entertained and so impressed by the whole production. I’ve seen plenty of musicals this year (with more to come, huzzah), but I have a feeling this will easily land in my top three for 2016. Highly recommended!
Vanities is playing at the Trafalgar Studios until October 1st, and you can purchase tickets here. If you’re in the market for an entertaining, tuneful, fun musical, this is a fantastic night out!
Disclaimer: I received a ticket for this performance in return for an honest review.