Lift at The Soho Theatre

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A new British musical by composer Craig Adams and writer Ian Watson, Lift gives audiences a story of ‘love, life and loss’ set in a London lift.

Like Mark Shenton of The Stage, I would never suggest that we blindly roll out a red carpet for every new British musical – we must continue to approach theatre in a critical and unbiased way. It is, however, important to give new music and new writing a place on our national theatre scene. Before going to this show, I was surprised to see that the musical has not been all that widely reviewed. This seems a great shame when the aim of creating new British theatre is close to the hearts of so many. In a world of high-grossing revivals, jukebox musicals and movie adaptations (some of which are very good), Lift will need a much higher profile to attract audiences if it returns for a deserved second run.

With the entire cast on stage for all but the first few minutes, Lift is a demanding musical to perform. In spite of this, the cast’s performance seemed polished as they negotiated their way through the show. Adams and his band performed his innovative score well, allowing its emotive and refreshing lyrics to shine (I particularly liked ‘Lost in Translations’). Watson’s script complimented the music nicely, the resulting combination hooking the audience from the opening number. It would be true to say that the musical’s plot line is not always clear but part of the fun for me as an audience member was trying to work out where the show was going and what was happening.

SOHO The bare set was a brave move which allowed the story and the music to speak for themselves. The chat-room scenes were particularly imaginatively staged. Performed by Luke Kempner and Jonny Fines, this relationship was, for me at least, one of the most interesting of the show. The transitions between sections did sometimes feel jumpy in their staging and I think these could have been made quicker and smoother without compromising the nature of the musical. Vocally, each performer more than justified their casting. Nikki Davis-Jones gave a beautifully emotional performance of ‘That Rainy Day’ and Cynthia Erivo stole the show with the rawness and passion of ‘It’s Been a Year’.  

Ultimately, Lift is a well-conceived piece of adult musical theatre. It’s poignant, aware and uplifting, at the same time both clever and beautifully simple. It is worth noting that the show benefited heavily from the intimacy of The Soho Theatre and I would be sceptical of seeing the show in too big a venue. Fortunately, however, there are plenty of smaller-scale West End theatres and I hope to see Lift drawing crowds to one of these in the near future.

7/10Lift was raw and emotive – a well-written new show with a strong cast.

Lift closes at The Soho Theatre, London on Sunday 24th February 2013.

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