6 A New Musical is the perfect fringe musical – handy when the company are soon to be performing at the Edinburgh Fringe. This is a song cycle following the lives of six people living in New York. The intimate venue of the London Theatre Workshop (for this preview performance) resembles that of a New York apartment; the clever use of a ladder and suitcases for minimal staging is well choreographed; the focus on twenty-something characters is well suited to the festival’s main demographic (hence the company name); and although it’s concise, it still packs an emotional punch.
Though set in New York, the stories apply to any city. There’s a young businessman climbing up the corporate ladder; a medical student having an affair with her professor; a single mum unable to pay rent; and a priest losing faith after the death of a loved one, to name four. Each character is struggling to find meaning in their lives, struggling to find their place in the vast isolating metropolis – a theme that’s easily relatable. The result is a series of human stories full of both laughter and tears.
The score, from Zack Zadek (who also wrote the book and lyrics), combines pop with contemporary musical theatre – imagine hearing a Jason Robert Brown song on the radio and you’re part way there. The songs work individually as standalone numbers, but eventually they come together in a hook-laden finale. The cast offer some wonderful singing, in particular the smooth effortless tone of Steffan Lloyd-Evans, the confident Ben Vivian-Jones and the tender voice of Chloe Nicolson.
If there’s one criticism it’s that the stories are too fragmented – many individual strands aren’t given a satisfying conclusion and the characters’ paths don’t cross as often as you’d like. Further, this means that musically the score relies too much on solo ballads. Not only would some more upbeat numbers provide balance, but more chorus numbers would allow the singers and the audience to revel in beautiful harmonies that are too rarely on display here.
That said, 6 provides a contrast to the huge amount of comedy at the festival. It’s honesty is commendable, whilst its beautiful melodies and emotional performances make it easy to love. If you’re heading up to Edinburgh this summer, this is not to be missed.
Watch: 6 A New Musical runs at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in theSpace throughout August.