London Calling

musicals and operas · london calling - the musical · Ages 16+ · United States of America

world premiere
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June 18, 2017 certified reviewer

What I liked

Let’s get this out of the way: Sean Smith was absolutely outstanding in four roles, especially as Tom’s father. He’s a very giving actor, and his intent was clear with everything he said, did, and sang. And he sang with a passion occasionally lacking from some of the other cast members.

Also outstanding: Sarah Marquelle Kruger and Natalie Davis (shout out for the 313!) as Punks 1 and 2. These two are primarily dancers during the show, but are omnipresent, driving transitions and full scenes as they act as a moving Greek chorus / pair of muses. The interplay between them and with the rest of the cast is a highlight. Also: I want them to teach me how to do my hair as quickly as they did Paul Holowaty’s hair as he transitioned mid-scene from secretarial schlump to full-on rock star.

And Sam Meader as Tom was outstanding on vocals, though his performance may have had matinee syndrome during the first few acts. Energy picked up considerably toward the end.

And speaking of the transitions and stagecraft: Whoever thought of the absolutely brilliant move of actually hanging art that labels each setting (“Dingy Council Flat,” “Piss-Stinking Alley”) is brilliant. It’s one of those things that probably sounded too obvious, but in a spartan Fringe-type setting, it grounds the actors and the audience immediately at each change.

What I didn't like

The Hudson is a small but not super small theater. So it’s definitely a sound challenge for a rock opera like this that is being performed to tracks. Unfortunately, at this performance, the tracks were consistently too loud, and some performers (80 percent of them) were under-amplified, meaning we lost a lot of the lyrics.

Is that a symptom of the sound board being off to one side of the theater? I’m unsure. I hope this was a one-off, though, because the show would have been far more enjoyable if I’d been able to hear the lyrics.

As I said above: The cast was largely fabulous. But one exception seemed to be Mr. Holowaty, who just did not have the voice to punch his vocals through the sound problems. And on the occasion when his voice was amplified properly, it stiil sounded a bit thin somehow. Again, maybe that’s just a voice / rock opera mismatch.

There is a pivotal moment with Rudy (played by Duane Asante Ervin) that could be made more obvious, as it left some audience members wondering what happens to him.

And as to be expected in a show that takes songs and forces them into dramatic moments, there was one song — “Should I Stay or Should I Go” — that just didn’t work very well. It is used at the point of a sad romantic breakup, and is performed as a back and forth. But it would have been much stronger if it were done only from the female’s perspective.

My overall impression

This was indeed a pretty good show — as far as I could tell. Decently compact — if a bit trite — plot, and well-cast with a possible glaring exception, this is mostly a triumph of finding a fit for songs in an unrelated story, a la “American Idiot: The Musical.”

However, there were severe sound issues during the performance I saw. Some performers could hardly be heard and others (the lead, in particular) seemed to be over-amplified.

It was a shame, because the left third of the Hudson audience kept looking at each other acknowledging the problem. Sound appeared to be better on the right.

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