Ex (Soho Theatre)

Posted on December 1, 2011

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A surprise tweet invited me to see ‘Ex‘ at the Soho Theatre, a brand new British musical. I’m the kind of girl who gets all wet at the thought of a ‘brand new musical’, even though those words might induce cold sweats in others. The fact that the show is nearing the end of its run and I hadn’t heard any buzz about it didn’t bode well, but I believe in supporting new & local talent in their early stages otherwise we’ll never get the chance to see them ‘fully grown’.

Plus the cast list looked good. I was particularly keen to see Siobhan Dillon as she’s taking over the role of Molly in ‘Ghost: The Musical’. I wanted to know if this girl had the chops. I’m also  fan of little Gabriel Vick after seeing him in ‘A Little Night Music‘ and ‘La Cage aux Folles‘. Simon Thomas I knew from the last time I saw ‘Legally Blonde: The Musical‘ and while I didn’t think he suited the role of Warner, he definitely has a good voice.

So I cancelled my evening plans (ie watching ‘Gossip Girl’), and made my way down Dean Street to the Soho Theatre.

As the show tells us, women like a project, and ‘Ex’ needs a strong woman to tackle it.

Sadly, no sign of Gabriel Vick (apparently he broke a foot in rehearsals… god only knows how). Turns out his role is now being played by Gerard Carey. Watching the role of Jack unfold, it’s odd to try to imagine Vick playing it (not that I think he’d be bad, but it would be a different interpretation). Carey brings a slobbish charm to the role of Jack (aided by his… how do I put this nicely… less than ideal physique). Vick is clearly more traditionally handsome than Carey, but there’s no denying Carey makes the character work.

So, this is the tale of ex-lovers who meet in a bar (the bar they first met in)….

I just tried to write-up the plot about 5 times and deleted it every time. For one, I don’t want to give spoilers, and two, the plots a bit of a rambling mess, and that’s my major criticism of ‘Ex‘. It’s just not ready to be put before an audience.

There’s a lot of really good, fun material in here, but the often the juicy bits muddy up the storyline. The first act is basically the same conversation happening over and over and over again, with too much extraneous detail which seems to be there merely to justify another song.

The songs too are far to similar in tone for the most part. There are some really nice numbers in the show, but they are watered down with too many poorly executed ones in between. The lyrics and melodies are often bent out of shape to fit a turn of phrase into place which simply doesn’t fit. Plus in many cases they commit the musical theatre sin of not advancing the plot OR illuminating character. These songs are drafts that need to be reworked.

The show is really screaming out for a producer to watch it with an outsiders eye and completely deconstruct it, cut away the fat, streamline the story and generally whip it into shape. The good news is that there is a nice little musical lurking underneath it all. As the show tells us, women like a project, and ‘Ex‘ needs a strong woman to tackle it.

Much like ‘Lord Of The Rings: Return of the King‘ (the film), ‘Ex‘ seems to end about 4 times before the lights come up. Characters seem to exit, and then return with no real logical reason other than to sing another mid-tempo number. For my money, the show should have ended after Claire’s final number – she’s the only character that seems to have gone on a real emotional arc.

Siobhan Dillon makes Claire work and I think she’ll be a great Molly for ‘Ghost‘, and Simon Thomas throws himself into some of the more ridiculous pieces of action/comedy with gusto (and is more handsome close up than I remembered… No wonder they cast him as a Prince in ‘Into The Woods‘).

Amy Booth-Steel‘s Ruby is a hard character to like and probably needs to be re-written the most I think, especially for a character at the center of the plot.

There is a beautifully sung quartet in the second act which really showcases how good these actors are… sadly though the emotional weight of the number feels out-of-place in a show that is rather light & comedic.

But when ‘Ex‘ is good it works, thanks to the talents of a very strong cast.

Rating: Much like meeting up with some of your actual ex’s, you can see the good bits you liked originally, but still see the reasons you walked out the door.

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Posted in: Musical