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BWW Review: NEXT THING YOU KNOW, The Garden Theatre At The Eagle

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A musical about confronting adulthood in the city that never sleeps

BWW Review: NEXT THING YOU KNOW, The Garden Theatre At The Eagle

BWW Review: NEXT THING YOU KNOW, The Garden Theatre At The Eagle

The third show to run at the open-air The Garden Theatre at The Eagle - now with outdoor heating - is this contemporary, American musical by Ryan Cunningham and Joshua Salzman.

Next Thing You Know is about four individuals living in New York who are moving into their thirties and having to start making adult decisions about their life direction. Waverly is a struggling actress who is offered a full-time job at a law firm, Darren tries to find the balance between his playwriting career goals and his relationship, Luke finally meets a girl who makes him consider giving up his Casanova lifestyle, and Lisa is deciding if it's time to finally leave the big city.

Designer David Shields does a great job of transforming The Garden Theatre into an authentic, rustic New York dive bar. From as soon as the audience is seated, we feel as though we are part of the setting and amongst the drama that unfolds. Unfortunately, the show doesn't live up to that initial promise.

The premise and character arcs feel very light, and the grittiness of New York City living is largely glossed over. The struggle of unaffordable living expenses and impossible career ladders is not explored enough for this to be a truly authentic and affecting story. The conflict that arises for the characters has been done to death, and nothing new is really brought to the table in this show.

Salzman and Cunningham, writers of I Love You Because, have created a very wordy score that is musically intelligent and filled with four-part harmonies. However, the music is largely forgettable and, disappointingly, there is no obvious theme tune nor a memorable showstopper to hum to yourself on the way home.

All the cast are 2020 graduates, in an effort to support this sector of the community affected by the pandemic. Perhaps their lack of experience is the reason for the stiff acting, or perhaps there is an element of miscasting. Or, otherwise, it could be the strategic socially distanced staging that prevents the actors from truly connecting with each other.

Whatever the case, the relationships do not feel believable and the stakes feel low. However, the directorial choice to set this show amidst the current pandemic - with moments such as the characters sanitising after a high-five - is clever and humorous.

Amelia Atherton as "the best friend", Lisa, is one to watch out for with her magnetic charisma, beautiful deep voice and comic timing - despite having little to work with. Likewise, Calum Henderson as Luke and Nathan Shaw as Darren display impressive contemporary vocals.

Although not terrible, this production at The Garden Theatre is sadly not as exciting as its predecessors and feels more like a showcase rather than a compelling story.

Next Thing You Know runs at The Garden Theatre until 31 October

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From This Author Bella Bevan