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BWW Review: TONIGHT AT THE LONDON COLISEUM: AFTER YOU, London Coliseum

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A sweet spark of hope for the future of theatre post pandemic

BWW Review: TONIGHT AT THE LONDON COLISEUM: AFTER YOU, London Coliseum

BWW Review: TONIGHT AT THE LONDON COLISEUM: AFTER YOU, London Coliseum The series Tonight at The Coliseum has gifted us with some wonderful gems so far, with concerts from Sharon D Clarke, Carrie Hope Fletcher and Cassidy Janson, and with three more still to come over the next few weeks.

Nestled in amongst the concerts, there has also been a sweet spark of hope for the future of theatre post-pandemic with a presentation of After You, a new musical from Alex Parker and Katie Lam.

Originally premiering in 2017 at Brasserie Zedel, After You is a musical "about the lives we choose, the paths we don't take and the things we sometimes need to keep for ourselves". We follow a young man and woman who meet by chance on a cruise ship bound for New York. He is a talented singer looking for fun and excitement as his career is heading on the right track, she is a smart yet shy lawyer taking some well-deserved downtime. Neither seem to be looking for a connection, and what will happen when the ship reaches port?

There are shades of familiarity in the plot, as it's seemingly inspired by some classic love stories (Brief Encounter and Bridges of Madison County spring to mind), but where the piece feels refreshing is the balance between the classic and contemporary elements.

Musically, Parker's score feels very lush, romantic and sweeping (a mixture of guitars by Alex Hillman, bass by Adam Higgs, violin by Will Hillman and Dave Hornberger on cello), and yet Lam's book and lyrics give us the humorous, contemporary edge - jokes around British turn of phrase and endearing charm about how these two people speak, think and express themselves to each other shine through, assisted further by Jordan Murphy's playful direction.

Two-handers are exciting considering their scope and potential for character development to a greater depth than might be expected in bigger ensemble pieces. This is true of After You, but it feels a little rough around the edges.

The ten songs shift between solos for our two characters and duets, and thus the action takes place over the course of a week on the cruise. We move from our characters getting to know each other, to some very sweet moments - including a heart to heart under the stars as they start to confront their respective feelings - and beyond with such speed that it's difficult to stay invested in the story. The emotional drama brought about by a twist, therefore, doesn't hit the emotional impact it could have, as the stakes feel underdeveloped, despite relatable and likeable characters.

The constant shifts between drama and humour at times feel rather jarring, and certain moments need longer to breathe and strike a stronger emotional note before we move on. However, this perhaps was a conscious creative decision given the piece is about moments in time and how we are defined by them.

Pacing issues aside, it's impossible to deny the star quality of our leading pair: Bradley Jaden and Alexia Khadime. I have seen Alexia in two very different shows musically (Les Miserables and The Prince of Egypt), so it's a treat to hear her sing a more modern-style score in After You - her range and vocal prowess bring great intensity to the Coliseum's empty auditorium during her solo numbers. Watching her character grow in confidence throughout the show is a joy, as Alexia imbues her with great warmth and wit. Seeing her performance in person (hopefully!) one day will be truly special.

Bradley Jaden brings irresistible, easy-going charm and swagger to his character that make his vulnerable moments more potent and endearing. His smile dazzles and his comic timing is deftly judged; it's very easy to see how Khadime's character would be drawn to him. His vocals are rich and striking too, the title number a particular standout moment. Both Jaden and Khadime charm in their respective journeys, but it's when they come together that the show truly comes alive.

Running at just under an hour, After You is a brave little piece to be dealing with some very hefty universal themes. While trying to pack a lot in sometimes means it loses focus, its central performances from the leading pair charm in spades, and potential for a bright future - once live audiences can return - is undeniable.

Tonight at the London Coliseum is a series of online concerts with various West End stars. After You was on 3 October


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