EDGES: A Song Cycle
July 20 – 23 2016
Reviewed by Katy Cotter
Last night I entered (for the millionth time, I’m sure) the hallowed halls of the Metro Arts building in the city. I never get sick of the place. It was opening night of Understudy Productions’ debut show Edges: A Song Cycle. For those who are not familiar, Edges is a coming of age musical about a group of friends in their early twenties. They reflect on the people they were or pretended to be in high school, and the people they hope to become. It focuses on the tumultuous relationships, the importance of friendship and forgiveness, and the necessity of dreaming big. It also warns about the crazy ex and that closure is paramount.
Edges was written by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul in 2005. Apparently, while they studying musical theatre at the University of Michigan, they were dissatisfied with the roles they were being assigned so they decided to write their own show. They were only 19 at the time, and now the show has been performed around the world.
Understudy Productions is a brand new Brisbane-based company founded by Alexander Woodward who last year graduated from the Griffith University Queensland Conservatorium of Music. With the help of his creative team, the company strives to create professional opportunities for local performers. Edges was the perfect choice to display the incredible vocal talent of the six cast members, including Woodward, giving each a decent amount of time in the spotlight. They played multiple characters which at first was jarring, though it was quickly established that each song was a snapshot into a person’s life, and then we moved on.
The production itself was minimalist; set at the beach. The friends were spending the day reminiscing while lounging on picnic rugs, eating strawberries and drinking craft beers. A small wooden boardwalk crossed the stage adorned with mood lights and surrounded by pale white sand. Behind this sat the band.
The musical itself is the right amount harrowing and hilarious. The audience enjoys the emotional rollercoaster without being overwhelmed or begging for there to be one central character to root for. I must mention my favourite performance from the Musical Director, Dominic Woodhead, who sang Along the Way. This young man is not only an incredibly talented musician, but his comedic timing was superb during this number. He was completely endearing and charmed the pants off the audience.
The transitions between songs were awkward space and needed more consideration as to what the performers were doing instead of just waiting for their cue to start singing. Those transitions are vital in maintaining that relationship between the performer and the audience. If there is awkward space, then the audience drops out of the world being created for them. And, of course, in large scale musicals there are many magical distractions like flying witches or hobbits disappearing. Edges has a raw and vulnerable quality.
This show is a whole lot of fun but it only runs until Saturday. Understudy Productions is a group of young creatives that are passionate about musical theatre. We need to support those who are brave enough to step out on their own and carve their own path. Support the arts, Brisbane, and most importantly, support the locals!