Passion brought out of religious fervour can be a very dangerous thing and with Bare, A Pop Opera – lyrics by Jon Hartmere and music by Damon Intrabartolo – this is explored and examined in finite detail, set against a high school production of Romeo and Juliet.
The score is very melodic and the content of the songs drives the narrative superbly. Echoes of Jesus Christ Superstar, Godspell, Joseph and even Rent have clearly influenced the composers but this is not a bad thing as the whole show zips along, and with further influences taken from High School Musical and even Glee, the story of Peter and Jason unfolds.
This is a musical with a message, with some strident performances from some of the ensemble but special mention has to be made of Daniel Mack Shand who gives a star turn as Peter, Darragh Cowley as the conflicted Jason whose energy and controlled delivery of his role is breathtaking.
Director Julie Atherton has packed a lot in and with the choreography by Stuart Rogers, the pace and feel of the musical is punchy and driven by the rock and roll soundtrack. Georgie Lovatt as Nadia is very watchable and delivers some fabulous ‘zingers’ especially when she performs a song that basically challenges accepted female body shapes – ‘that only a thin girl can play Juliet’. Stacy Francis as Sister Chantelle was born to play this role and the phrase ‘scene stealer’ has never been more apt; powerhouse vocals full of soul.
The composers also drive home the message of the hypocrisy found within the American education system and the Catholic Church, lack of help and guidance, the pressure that society puts on youth, the risk of self harm, substance abuse, the need to fit in and that you have to be prepared to run the risk of being you. The final two minutes are poignant and extremely moving as the names of real young people that took their own lives are read out and their pictures placed on a ‘tree of life’.
A truly heartfelt theatrical experience performed by a cast that are completely connected and bare their respective souls with power and conviction to deliver this musical. Stunning stuff!
Photos by Tom Grace