Thursday, November 14, 2013

One Minute in a Lift

A couple of months ago, one of my fellow bloggers over on Crazytown, Michael Kras, mentioned Lift was one of his favorite lesser-known musical cast albums. Lift, referring to an elevator in Convent Garden in London, looks into the lives of strangers who share a minute-long ride together through the eyes of a train station busker. Lift by Craig Adams and Ian Watson represents the wave of new and emerging musicals from the UK, and it was developed extensively with Pitch Perfect Musicals, a company fighting the good fight by producing new works by new writers in London. Michael's mention definitely intrigued me about this show, and serendipitously enough, Lift is currently making its US debut with Beautiful Soup Theater at the Richard Shepard Theatre. 

Lift received mixed reviews in London with most citing its loose plotting as the area of concern. In many ways, Lift evokes shows like Company and Hello Again in its play with time and use of themes of longing and connection to build characters through brief vignettes. It's obvious that Craig Adams can write some great tunes, and lamentations of time and regret really ring true through his smart lyrics and haunting refrains. But there are a lot of aspects of the story that never quite gel-- though Lift shows small vignettes of possible connections between people in this elevator, it never establishes how or why we know these things. Are these scenarios all in the head of the romantic busker? And if not, what are these scenarios played out outside the lift supposed to signify about these characters, other than that they are lonely or hoping for something more than they have?

Beautiful Soup's production, directed by Steven Carl McCasland, features some lovely voices and some nice moments of cheeky humor. I can easily see Lift becoming a chamber musical cult favorite, since the music lends itself to lots of impressive solos and troubled characters. But even this production cannot overcome a lot of the holes in the plotting itself, leading to scattered moments of true musical connection with a lot of crowds rushing in between. I am glad that Lift made its way to this side of the pond, and I hope this is an introduction to more new British works making their way over in the future. In the meantime, you can catch Beautiful Soup's production, running until November 24th.

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