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Heart and Soul /Epstein Theatre

Is the musical about stardom destined for stardom, asks Larry Sidorczuk

Written by . Published on March 18th 2013.

Heart and Soul /Epstein Theatre

ANYONE can dream of a better life…some more than others.

In this case, we have Cathy Mason (Tricia McTeague) who wants to make the big time in the music industry, who has to suffer countless rejections and, yet, still believes that it'll happen one day. 

This musical is unashamedly Liverpool
at its populist heart and has 
never-give-up female resilience at its soul

But the cards are stacked against her. She's living at home with an angry, jobless dad and a downtrodden mum, and has to rely on giving the odd music lesson and one-nighters in dingy clubs like Dacey’s. 

Step forward the sudden reappearance of an old-flame from her teenage years, Michael Carlucci (Jay Podmore), who still loves her but can't say it. Drop in a trip to London on the promise of a recording contract with dodgy A&R reps and, then, a chance meeting with cowboy Red Carson (Jay Davies) who insists that they go back to Memphis to produce an album.

Heart And Soul CastHeart And Soul Cast

It's a classic chance of a lifetime but fates conspire against her. Still, she ends up going against her better judgement, only to find that her dreams of stardom prove to be a contractual nightmare and living hell.

Who comes to the rescue? None other than good old Mike and the backing of Cathy's long-time friend Nicky (Charlie Griffiths) who has eventually managed to net a rich sugar daddy. That's the story. Plausible? Well, perhaps. Life’s never so simple or far-fetched as that but it never stopped Willy Russell’s Blood Brothers and countless others like Rock Follies and The Commitments.

This musical is unashamedly Liverpool at its populist heart and has never-give-up female resilience at its soul. The principal characters equally so.

You’ll see and hear the same kind of banter from men and women down in the clubs around town any weekend, maybe not so much the family dramas, but it captured the essentials as far as this musical production went.

Indra Nathaniel And Maria CavanaghIndra Nathaniel And Maria Cavanagh

It’s the product of a partnership between Maria Cavanagh and Indra Nathaniel (Applet Music Productions) which has been going for the best part of 20 years so they should know. It's called hard-won experience and you can tell they've been through it. 

The same tales of transit touring and promised-but-never-fulfilled recording deals. Then, the years in the semi-wilderness and regrets of what might have been. I'm sure it's true for countless bands and singers so should resonate well with all those who never made it and, by implication, the rest of us.

So, for them, this is where their own personal journey ultimately led to.

It’s been well worth the wait. You’ve only got to look at the programme credits to see that they jointly wrote the music, lyrics and script. Not bad for a three-hour show with 15 original numbers. These are the kind of tunes  you can't fail to like - a wide variety of rock, jazz, rockabilly, motown, ballads and splendid solos. You’ll be guaranteed to be humming them for days after. These include If I Only Had, Someone and Love Everlasting to the show-stopping numbers Get Ready, You Can Do Anything and Boy From Memphis.

Heart And Soul Musical Liverpool2
The final act is simply mesmerising as Cathy performs as the new pop sensation on a revolving set. A far cry from singing into her hairbrush at home. Incidentally, the songs are often well-choreographed by Sue Lancaster and all the cast gave polished performances given the relatively smallish stage at the Epstein. The occasional projections worked OK and some ingenious sets by Laura Lomax helped jolly things along, like the Commer van on the motorway.

It’s worth remembering that it’s set in the 1990s,  well before iTunes, Spotify, Facebook and YouTube, so getting yourself known had to involve a good deal of graft, well before the promises of present day instant stardom through X-Factor and The Voice.

Given the show’s overall length, it would have made sense to lose some scenes, such as an unnecessary accident, an unplanned (and unresolved) pregnancy and the arrest of Sid, Dacey’s club manager (Simon Foster). Something to consider if it goes on tour and, should it ever make it to the West End, it’ll make a refreshing alternative to the current crop of film/TV spinoffs.

The audience loved this show and gave it a standing ovation at the finale. Not really surprising given it was playing to a home crowd who got the references, locations and slang.

For me, what stood out were the songs and the splendid pure voices which gave them life. Get that wrong and no musical can survive, no matter how strong the storyline or acting ability. This show proved that it’s possible to have both and, in the words of one of the songs You Can Do Anything…”reach out and take what you know is yours, only achieve what you truly believe”.

That itself captured the enduring spirit of what Maria and Indra have gone through to create this ultimately feel-good musical for our sham celebrity times.

For a brief four days at the Neptune, something quite extraordinary happened. This fresh and original musical proved that personal dreams survived the worst excesses of music industry manipulation and those burning flames of hope and ambition could still illuminate the dark recesses of isolation, self-doubt and despondency.

Maybe not exactly a story, but certainly a musical for our times.


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Peter Coyle

i wish i had been there…it sounds like something joyous and anarchic...the way the article is…

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