What I Go to School For – The Busted Musical was performed by Youth Music Theatre UK at the Theatre Royal, Brighton.
Star rating: four stars ★ ★ ★ ★ ✩
It was with some trepidation that your aged scribe accepted the Editor’s invitation to review this musical built round the story of super group Busted (James Bourne, Matt Willis and Charlie Simpson) and their music. Being far removed from the modern pop music scene, I feared I would not appreciate the show, but duty called. Wishing to support young performers, the challenge was accepted.
Within minutes of curtain up, those fears were dismissed and a fantastic evening of pleasure followed.
The book comes from a further collaboration between James Bourne and Elliot Davis (Loserville the Musical and Out There) and has a storyline that is similar to other biographical pop group musicals – how the group formed, their early struggles, success and the price paid for it, and the inevitable break-up over artistic differences. In this case, it is the dissatisfaction associated with being in a pop group rather than a rock group.
This familiar tale is told simply – both in narrative and in staging. Scene transitions are kept minimal and it is left to the songs to flesh out the story. This simplicity provides a picture frame within which a superb canvas displays incredible talent from a cast of 37, all of whom dazzle with their youthfully energy and enthusiasm. Both of which are firmly channelled by director Steven Dexter and his creative team.
It was hard to believe that the show was put together with only two weeks of rehearsal (albeit intensive) and that the ages of the cast ranged from 15 to 19 years.
The three leading roles of James, Matt and Charlie were played by Joseph Riley (15), Zak Robinson (15) and Roman Lewis (17), all of whom impressed with their singing and acting. From so many other excellent performances, only a few can be mentioned. The singing of Darcie Brown and Martha Burke (who plays Charlie’s girlfriend) stand out, as does that of Olivia Hallett, particularly in the ballad that recalls her meeting up with James the previous summer. Showing her comic talent is Hannah Breedon as the confused Grandma Peg.
Comedy also comes with a couple of ‘in-jokes’ involving Simon Cowell and Benedict Cumberbatch.
The show uses many of the group’s hits – ‘Crashed the Wedding’, ‘Sleeping With the Light On’, ‘Year 3000’, and ‘Who’s David’ with ‘Pigs Can Fly’ and the title song being particularly memorable. Excellent musical backing is provided by a five-piece band under the sensitive leadership of the musical director and arranger Michael Bradley. He never allows the music to dominate the singing.
Choreographer Ewan Jones devises some high-energy routines that are performed in a well-disciplined manner. A couple of his interesting routines give a balletic touch to a cricket match and in a classroom scene he has the girls dancing from a seated position.
The only down note is that the talent on display and the effort put in by executive producer Jon Bromwich and his team deserves to be seen by a larger audience than the one that attended on the second night.
* Readers may also be interested in:
The Great Gatsby – Youth Music Theatre UK – Wilde Theatre, South Hill Park Arts Centre, Bracknell – Review.
Fight Like a Girl – Youth Music Theatre UK – Sunny Bank Mills, Farsley, West Yorkshire – Review.