Saturday, 9 November 2019

Reputation @ The Other Palace

Reputation @ The Other Palace

Reputation initially seems timely. In a post #MeToo world of feminism, it's a new musical from Alick Glass that depicts a woman whose work is plagiarised by a man. The young Michelle Grant (Maddy Banks) is tricked into submitting her work to influential film director Freddy Larceny (Jeremy Secomb), who promptly steals the plot. And so, the young woman must regain her work and her dignity.

It's ironic, then, that it's narrated by a man. Larceny's direct addresses to the audience bookend the narrative, returning at key moments to provide further insight. Perhaps this parallel was intentional, as Larceny literally takes over Michelle's story. But it robs the musical of any sort of feminist power.

The cast is dominated by women, yet it's men who control the narrative. There are plenty of cute songs for the chorus girls, but no amount of prissy dance numbers about shopping can give these materialistic women any depth. Michelle herself is a pathetic character who, rather than being a strong career woman taking matters into her own hands, relies on her father and a young male lawyer to bail her out - a lawyer who she promptly falls in love with, obviously. The musical may be set in the 1930s but its politics don't have to be.

It's not helped by Secomb playing Larceny like a pantomime villain. His creepy schtick as an older man manipulating a young woman is uncomfortable to watch - one audience member even booed him out loud.

As a whole, Glass' work is derivative. The narrative has all the hallmarks of a 1930s musical - a meet cute, a soppy love story, a diva jazz singer - and his score is typical and repetitive jazz stuff, reprising numbers and musical phrases. It lacks the grit the plot deserves and the 1930s Hollywood setting is missing the glamorous razzle dazzle you'd expect.

It's all held together by a capable cast. The chorus girls sing some lovely harmonies and Banks especially stands out for her pure, Disney voice. As love interest Archie, Ed Wade joins her with a pleasingly light tenor, despite the saccharine writing.

The cabaret setting of The Other Palace's studio space is under-utilised here. It's the kind of musical that's aiming for grand sets and dance numbers, but the story at its core is too weak.


Watch: Reputation runs at The Other Palace until 14th November.

Reputation @ The Other Palace
Photo: Donato