Previously released as a concept album, Drew Gasparini’s song cycle I Could Use a Drink now has its UK premiere, and proves to be a piece of dramatic power, an array of different musical styles, and a showcase for seven excellent performers from across the musical theatre spectrum.
Appearing in the cast are Ahmed Hamad, Billy Nevers, Caroline Kay, Luke Bayer, Maiya Quansah-Breed, GSA graduate Olivia Lallo and Tom Francis. Most of the seventeen songs are solos and many are about loss, love, obsession, neglect, regret, or taking risks. Elsewhere there are duets and trios, and if there is no storyline as such there is a thematic thread that links these songs together.
Filmed at the Fiction Studios, which has been a backdrop for several shows produced by Thespie over the past few months, the informal concert feel of this piece, with just three musicians (led by Flynn Sturgeon with Alex Maxted, drums and Emily Roberts, guitar) adding accompaniment to the singers, I Could Use a Drink stands on its melodies, its lyrics, and the professionalism of the performers.
Ahmed Hamid, Luke Bayer, and Tom Francis make a cheeky, confident trio in Valley High, while Billy Nevers reveals a big bluesy vocal range in his two solo numbers, and Caroline Kay’s happy killer is a fine creation. There are no weak links here, however, in the numbers performed or the young cast bringing them to our home screens.
Directed by Alex Conder, this benefits from some interesting angles to get past the need for socially distant performances, and stands back to put the songs front and centre when required. I felt the variety between them made this cycle stand out, while utilising two songs to tell the same story twice was an interesting touch. There is a coherence in this concept that works well.
In this type of song cycle, the ability to bring a character to life through one moment allows the cast to bring their acting skills to the fore in a very specific way. You can believe someone who was abandoned as a child, or a lad who fell in love with another lad who didn’t feel the same, or a girl whose relationship has broken down, without hearing their back story or following their character arc.
Gasparini’s work is strong, vibrant, and very enjoyable, and will definitely withstand repeated hearings to catch the nuances of the lyrical rhymes and wordplay (full marks for rhyming ‘circus’ and ‘work is’, by the way).
Image credit: Gartland Productions
LouReviews received complimentary access to review I Could Use a Drink.