When I watch a show or a play, one of two things is generally true. If it’s anywhere between bad and quite good I wish I had directed it. If it’s really good I wish I had been in it. The latter was true of MTSoc’s production Personals*.
Personals is a musical version of Sex and the City (cleaned up) that comprises a series of short scenes that examine relationships and the inescapable human desire for the perfect partner. Some of the scenes link up and tell a story, for example the strangely touching story of how a typesetter (Matt Smith) and his wife found renewed love with a dwarf transvestite or the geeky virgin (sound familiar, oh ic students?) (Simon Rawson) resorting to tuition on dating techniques from acutely observant audio tapes. In between the witty and sometimes very silly sketches were the surprising and poignant glimpses of a divorced woman’s (Jenny Perry) conflicting emotions in coming to terms with the freedom and loneliness of her new situation.
The cast were enthused and genuinely enjoying themselves on stage. They were confident about knowing their notes, which included some tricky close harmonies. The dance routines, though reasonably simple, were performed well and a more complicated or challenging choreography would probably appear out of place in this musical.
The nature of the narrative made it particularly suitable for a staging in the round. The choice to do this brought the actors closer to the audience and this definitely contributed to my enjoyment of the production. The simple set was exactly what it needed to be.
It was disappointing however that this staging choice was not executed as well as it might have been. I often missed sections of the sung dialogue, either through lapses in the largely excellent diction or though cast having their backs turned. This latter flaw is of course, largely unavoidable given the “in the round” setting. That of much of the action being directed towards the North end of the room in the first half and the West end in the second half however, is not.
That said, I loved this production. Despite the occasional incomprehensible dialogue and the sometimes dodgy US accents this was one of the better student musicals that I have seen and certainly I can only recall one other that I have enjoyed as much.
I shall leave you with the best joke of the play: “Straps, whips, belts, knuckles, buckles, paddles, prongs: anything goes! Man has done it all, leather, chains, S&M, B&D. But has she ever done G&S?”. But perhaps one would have to have lived through and survived Tour to fully appreciate the pain and torture of G&S.
*Words by David Crane, Seth Friedman and Marta Kauffman. Music by William Dreskin, Joel Phillip Friedman, Seth Friedman, Alan Menken, Stephen Schwartz and Michael Skloff