#Tweetingit – 4* A much underrated musical gets a long overdue West End revival. You’ll still be singing these songs on the train home afterwards.
So 35 years after its first West End run I’m Getting My Act Together…gets a richly deserved second outing. I actually saw the show first time around at the Apollo Theatre in Shaftsbury Avenue. Amazingly, I still have the programme from that production in April 1981. Diane Langton and Ben Cross took the lead roles back then. I only have the vaguest memory as I was very young at the time; I wonder how Mum got my pram into the theatre? But enough digression, it tells the story of Heather Jones, 39 year old divorcee attempting a comeback as pop star.
She is rehearsing new material with her band when her manager, Joe Epstein returns from California certain he can get her a gig at the legendary Troubadour club in Los Angeles. But he wants to hear the old Heather; the old songs that made her name. Heather has her own ideas with a range of new, edgier songs that draw on the failure of her marriage and new found sense of independence. Joe is convinced she has chosen the wrong direction; but the songs unearth some painful truths in his own failing relationship with wife Francesca.
With powerhouse lead vocals from Landi Oshinowo as Heather, the band kicks butt from start to finish. Kristen Gaetz as Cheryl and Rosanna Hyland as Alice provide solid backing vocal support and create a convincing girl group sound. David Gibbon as Jake plays guitar and Alice Offley as Scottie plays bass; the tight, well drilled ensemble is completed by Nick Barstow on piano and Rich Craig on drums. Nicolas Colicos pins the story down as Joe Epstein, Heather’s world weary manager. The running time is relatively short for a musical, only eleven songs stretching over ninety minutes but they aid the narrative extremely well. The songs are memorable and well-constructed, tracing Heather’s journey. There are many standouts; Natural High is a storming tune that opens and closes the show; Dear Tom a defiant farewell to Heather’s ex-husband; Old friend, Heather’s touching tribute to Joe; and Put in a package and sold, a two finger salute to the marketing men.
These songs are strong enough to stand alone so find surprising they haven’t been recorded independently;Happy Birthday would have been perfect for Whitney Houston, while In a simple way I love you has Barbara Streisand’s name written all over it.
The songs and narrative hint at feminist issues, and is perhaps a good indicator of the musical’s origins in the 1970s. That doesn’t mean female empowerment isn’t still relevant, but one hopes society has moved on from women feeling trapped in loveless relationships. Even so, the narrative doesn’t feel dated as the story explores human relationships which can never be passé. Overall, it’s a well packaged production of a musical that deserves another shot, if only for the sheer quality of the songs. Good work all round. More please!
Book and Lyrics: Gretchen Cryer
Music: Nancy Ford
Director: Matthew Gould
Musical Direction: Nick Barstow
Producer: Jermyn Street Theatre in association with Samuel French Ltd
Box Office: 020 7287 2875
Booking until: 23 July 2016