In the tiny black box that is the lounge of the Leicester Square Theatre, a tight, sprightly band strike up the first chords of the new musical, Gap Year. It is difficult to know what to expect. Perhaps something along the lines of the viral YouTube video that has almost five million views? While there are some similarities with the video, this show is no copycat.
Gap Year is an entirely entertaining production. With music and lyrics by Tim Gilvin and Patrick Stockbridge, and a book by Dan John, Ferghal Crowley directs a youthful, vibrant cast of six. The story follows eighteen year-old, self-confessed wimp Tom as he embarks on his gap year in the hope of finding himself. On his travels around Australia, Tom meets the more experienced back-packer Holly who takes him under her wing, alongside a host of other characters. To the credit of the writers, the show does not go as expected and supplies plenty of belly laughs. At times the lyrics are clunky and heavy-handed, but the consistent music is catchy and fits the joyful vibe of the show.
It is hilarious at times and there are some moments when the cast make a delightful sound together.
The show aptly feels like a group of friends have gathered to tell a story of their lives. This slightly unpredictable, rough-around-the-edges quality endures. And it works; the cast quickly get the audience on side and firmly holds them there. It is hilarious at times and there are some moments when the cast make a delightful sound together. Katie Brennan gives a stand out performance; she has tremendous comic timing to match her stunning voice, especially in her turns as the Hitchhiker Killer, Mad Max, and as crazy hostel-owner, Madge. Also, Joe Hinds as backpacking-virgin Tom shows clear potential.
It is a chirpy, cheeky show. At times, it is over-the-top and the acting verges on the presentational – it could do with a touch more connection from the cast to make it truly emotionally engaging. Having said that, it is a great fun evening at the theatre that you can’t help but enjoy.
*** (3 stars)