YOU have to admire the spirit of NUEMusicTheatre Company, York’s newest theatre company, and especially its co-founder Mikhail Lim, who has thrown a goodly sum from his student loan at funding this debut show.
We keep hearing how times are hard for the arts – Out Of Joint, featured elsewhere on this page, will produce one rather than three touring shows per year after suffering funding cuts of £100,000, for example – but there is more and more theatre being staged in York.
You may recall York Stage Musicals – another of York’s progressive companies – premiering the left-field American musical Spring Awakening in November 2010. Bare, A Pop Opera, by Jon Hartmere and Damon Intrabartolo, is another such show about youthful yearning and learning and sexual spring time, moving its coming-of-age story onwards from Frank Wedekind’s Germany of 1891 to a modern-day American Catholic boarding school.
It’s a love story, a gay love story, the love of Mikhail Lim’s Peter (who doesn’t hide it and wants to tell his mother) and Aran MacRae’s Jason (who is struggling to come to terms with it, hiding behind a fling with prettiest girl in class, Lottie Henshall’s Ivy).
They happen to be playing Romeo and Juliet in the school production, and the stories overlap most affectingly, Shakespeare’s lines being used to high emotional impact in Intrabartolo’s songs.
Spring Awakening was an upfront kind of musical and this is even more so, carrying an adult content warning that is relished by Robyn Grant’s Nadia, Jason’s provocative, outsider sister with the best lines and best songs in the show. Grant is only 17 but stage school and the professional stage surely awaits her prodigious talent. MacRae impresses too and Lim’s performance is heartfelt, touched you sense by personal experience.
Praise too for Lim and Matthew Hill’s thrusting direction, the singing performances of John Whitney, Sam Crane and Michelle Wen Lee and the lively contribution of Barbara Chan’s band.
Bare, A Pop Opera, NUEMusicTheatre Company, Quad South Hall, York St John University, today at 2.30pm and 7.30pm. Online box office: nuemusictheatre.moonfruit.com