Next Thing You Know at Garden Theatre
With Covid refusing to go away outdoor theatre is continuing, with heaters being added to make the experience more realistic as the British winter approaches. This took me back to the Garden theatre to see Next Thing You Know.
Next Thing You Know with music by Joshua Salzman and lyrics by Ryan Cunningham, tells the story of 4 New Yorkers, Waverly an aspiring actress who works in a bar and a law office, Lisa a singer who moved to New York to find the girl of her dreams, Darren, a writer and at the start of the show Waverly’s boyfriend and Luke, Darren’s colleague. They are all on the cusp of turning 30 and having to decide if they progress to the next stage of their life. The show looks at everything from friendships to work but with main focus on relationships of the romantic kind.
I found the characters difficult to empathise with. Waverly’s biggest problem was if she should accept a job she enjoyed in an office or to continue to pursue her dream to be an actress. She broke up with Darren due to his inability to understand how she felt about it but to be honest, I felt for Darren!! Equally I found that I failed to feel anything for Lisa. Her character wasn’t given time to really develop, with the fact that she had to spell out the fact that she was a lesbian numerous times also spoke volumes for the lack of intelligence the audience is granted with by Salzman and Cunningham. However none of the above was the fault of the cast or production team and remains a constant issue whenever I see this musical.
The show, directed by Robert McWhir, made some odd decisions in terms of era. It was brought right up to date with the occasional reference to mask wearing, hand sanitizer and temperature checks. Whilst the Covid references got a laugh from the audience this jarred with more dated references such as a whole scene spent with Luke and Darren discovering that the computer can talk and communicating in this manner between them.
The set itself was clever. A lot of the show it set in a bar so the back part of the stage featured a bar where Waverly could serve drinks from. A simple door next to it also doubled as a door to Waverly’s house and much more and the bar tables created a versatile space to carry out most of the action. The Pianist and guitarist were on a small raised platform at the rear of the stage. This all created an intimate feel which suited this show well and ensured that there were no scene changes to slow down the flow of the piece.
The show was part of Gradfest, part of a series of shows designed to help graduates get seen. Therefore all 4 cast were played by 2020 graduates. The cast was made up of Amelia Atherton (Lisa), Bessy Ewa (Waverley), Calum Henderson (Luke) and Nathan Shaw (Darren). Whilst I wasn’t enamoured with how the characters were written I am confident that had it not been for the charm of Ewa my indifference towards Waverly may have even become annoyance. She had bundles of charisma and you could easily understand how she had both Darren and Luke after her. Both Henderson and Shaw’s voices really suited the piece however I failed to see much spark or feelings of intimacy between themselves and Waverly. Part of this may be down to the social distancing and their inability to come closer than a meter to Ewa.
Amelia Atherton as Lisa and her no nonsense attitude towards Waverly during ‘You Can’t Be Everything You Want’ was one of the shows highlights. I also enjoyed the chemistry that Atherton and Ewa had. I believed that these girls had genuinely been friends for years and this shone through during ‘Stay.’
Next Thing You Know was a pleasant evening out and I enjoyed watching and supporting new graduates however the piece itself let them down as I struggled to care for any of their journey throughout the show.
Next Thing You Know is running until 31st October. Tickets can be purchased here.