New music, new voices: The Route to Happiness

As part of the Landor Theatre's season of new musical writing, this week it is playing The Route to Happiness by Alexander S Bermange. It is an enjoyable three-hander about life relationships and ambition in London... A sort of a boy meets girl meets another girl while trying to succeed in business without really trying story...

It starts with the three characters down on their luck. The young and ambitious Marcus loses his job after getting caught out criticising his boss on social media, the ambitious but somewhat lacking in talent Trinity fails another audition, and writer Lorna who has been unlucky in love is again dumped. They all meet at a wedding and the three start up professional and personal relationships.

Bermange has written for West End shows and the BBC and has a range of musical styles. Here the piece feels like a London take on shows like I Love You Because or I Love You, You're Perfect Now Change. There is no dialogue but instead the story is told through the songs. There is clever music making here, particularly with some complex lyrics and counterpoint singing. And at times you have to listen carefully for the in-jokes and gags fly fast.

The three leads make this show particularly enjoyable. Niall Sheehy as Marcus deftly handles some tricky high notes and harmonies with the two ladies. Shona White as Lorna gets the chance to show off her vocal talents for soaring ballads and despair. And Cassidy Janson as Trinity captures the desperation of the wannabe actress along with a keen sense of musical comedy.

As a work in progress it is interesting to see a new piece of musical theatre with some great songs and some interesting ideas on stage. Although at this stage of its life it at times feels a little too predictable and the characters at times are a little too self-absorbed to sustain interest in a two hour show. There are few surprises in this piece once the characters are introduced and the predictability is only reinforced by the song titles in the programme. All this makes for a nice evening at the theatre that you feel like you have already seen.

It finishes its run on Sunday for now, but one suspects that given there is an interest and no doubt an audience for small-scale musical pieces like this, it is bound to be returning soon and will be fascinating to see where it ends up... Some of the songs would stand up well as jazz standards. The composer notes that the piece is intended for low budget fringe venues but stranger things have happened...

Photo credit: Francis Loney

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