BWW Review: I'M YOUR MAN, Project Arts Centre, 26 September 2015
Like any right-thinking musical theatre fan, I'd had the Hamilton Broadway Cast Recording on a constant loop since it was released on Friday morning and the hugely hyped #hamiltunes were ringing in my ears as I entered the Project Arts Centre for the premiere of I'm Your Man, a sort-of musical produced in conjunction with THISISPOPBABY as part of Dublin Theatre Festival.
With music/lyrics by Mark Palmer and book/direction by Phillip McMahon, I'm Your Man aims, to quote Palmer's note in the programme, "to lay bare the plurality of the human psyche"; as one might gather from that, it's not exactly a laugh riot. Despite some moments of levity - I counted three - this is a show that takes itself very seriously indeed. Still, with an overall theme of love lost, despair and the transcendent, life-saving power of music, perhaps that's not inappropriate.
McMahon's book is often striking ("Have you heard about the man who hit rock bottom? He suddenly heard a scratching from below") but I couldn't help feeling the nuances of the weighty text were lost on me; I found myself enjoying proceedings much more when I stopped trying to make sense of it, instead allowing each of the twelve songs to have its subjective way with me.
And that's where the real appeal of this hour lies: Palmer's music itself is, broadly speaking, pretty terrific, and it's to McMahon's credit that the piece is directed with minimal distraction from it. From the ominous opening number 'Soul Fire' through to the oddly appealing acapella 'Scary Outro', there's a great deal to enjoy here, thanks in no small part to the musicianship of the company and in particular the precise, beautiful vocals of soloists Adam Matthews, Ruth McGill and Alma Kelliher.Having passed by the CDs for sale on the way into the venue, I'd resolved to buy one about one third of the way through the hour, long before hearing the aching 'Song of Unending Love', the performance of which is nothing short of jaw-dropping. Singers, songwriter and director are in perfect synchronicity here, delivering a stunning couple of minutes and dispelling any reservations one may have had up to this point. It's currently on a loop; Hamilton will just have to wait.
I'm Your Man runs at Project Arts Centre until 3 October.