I Could Use A Drink at Garrick Theatre
Composer/lyricist Drew Gasparini braved Covid restrictions either side of the Atlantic to fly into London for this single performance of I Could Use A Drink at the Garrick Theatre. Although his work has been performed all over the world (including London) his extensive musical theatre repertoire is perhaps better known in his home country. He is currently developing a number of new stage musicals, including a Broadway-bound adaptation of “The Karate Kid”.
Originally released as a concept album, “I Could Use A Drink” first appeared in 2013. After a successful UK streaming event, it has been reimagined and order slightly rearranged for theatrical presentation. The song cycle covered topics as diverse as teenage heartache, pregnancy, the agony of unrequited love as well as relationship breakdown and the minefield of coming out gay to a parent. Given that many of the songs are semi-autobiographical, it is therefore to be hoped that the subject of mass shootings as a result of bullying represents at most a “what if” scenario.
As a staged concert, song quality had to provide a solid foundation – particularly since not all of the audience would have been familiar with the material. The good news is that there wasn’t a dud song all night. Musical style included, Rock, Country, Jazz, Soul and the kind of modern musical theatre with which audiences have become very familiar (including the kind of amplification that occasionally overcame lyric delivery). Every song told a story, poignant, witty, heartfelt, sometimes very dark but always taking the audience on journeys to occasionally unexpected destinations. Gasparini can certainly turn out catchy and haunting melodies matched to clever lyrics.
Leading a tight seven-piece band (a number of them multi-instrumentalists) from the keyboards MD Flynn Sturgeon’s excellent arrangements provided solid support for the nine vocal performers. There was enormous variety in the instrumental arrangements as well as harmony and opportunities for individuals to demonstrate their capabilities. It was a shame there was no programme available to identify band members, singers or song titles as there were some outstanding performances producing impressive vocal pyrotechnics. As a result, it would be invidious to single out individual performances given that two cast members were not identified in pre-publicity.
It was also a shame that this performance was for one night only – it deserves an extended run. However it did provide an excellent showcase for Gasparini’s work, with the album definitely worth a revisit. If this lyric and melodic quality can be maintained, “The Karate Kid” should definitely be something to look forward to.
Review by Robin Kelly.