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Review: BABIES A NEW (BORN) MUSICAL, The Other Palace

A jolly musical romp that's surprisingly profound.

By: Jun. 13, 2024
Review: BABIES A NEW (BORN) MUSICAL, The Other Palace  Image
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Review: BABIES A NEW (BORN) MUSICAL, The Other Palace  ImageReal life is looming right after the end of Year 11. Entrusted with a robotic newborn, a group of students need to survive a week in their new roles as parents while their GCSEs get closer and closer. The school is trying to teach them responsibility and warn off any unwanted pregnancies - but the teens already have too much on their plates. The new arrivals, though only plastic infant simulators, blow up their routines: lies are uncovered, relationships shatter, and friendships blossom. The complicated inner lives of modern teenagers are dissected in a jolly musical romp that’s surprisingly touching underneath all the fun and games.

Babies started to make noise last year when a staged concert followed a successful workshop. It’s easy to see why musical theatre fans rallied around Jack Godfrey and Martha Geelan’s new venture: it’s joyous, fresh, and filled with catchy songs. The score is heavily (and unashamedly) influenced by mid-2010s pop-rock, with energetic, weirdly familiar numbers and more level-headed ballads that reveal the personal struggles of character whom we immediately feel for. The stereotypical personality clashes you’d find in any teen comedy drama come together to build a properly choral piece of theatre that’s as quirky as it gets.

With the story spanning a total of seven days and the running time coming down to just under two hours, the action is quick. Alexzandra Sarmiento streamlines the narrative with dynamic choreography. It’s a rather traditional use of movement, but it does the job and fills in the space nimbly on Jasmine Swan’s set design. Geelan’s book and Godfrey’s tracks handle a variety of tones, managing to be silly and tongue-in-cheek when needed before shifting into sombre twists of emotional depth. Geelan proves herself a skilled director as well as a writer, and the production gains an even more cohesive look with her at the helm. A steady ensemble completes an utterly delectable show.

The cast are a delightful bunch, hitting the ground running straight on with a hilarious opening that establishes the rules of the game. It’s one of those musicals that don’t really have any main roles, so everyone ends up shining in a shared spotlight. Jaina Brock-Patel starts each day updating her followers online, offering a hint of chronology to the audience and setting the pace. She’s constantly tailed by her faithful devotee Lulu, portrayed with a goofy streak by Lucy Carter, and her boyfriend Ben, a good-hearted Max Mulrenan.

In quite a turn for the genre, the local mean girl doesn’t come in the shape of the popular princess, but in the nerdy student who takes everything too seriously: Lauren Conroy is seething as Jasmine. Her biggest rival is Zoë Athena’s Leah, a troubled adolescent who’s had to grow up too fast. Bradley Riches is another highlight in this phenomenal team as the resident queer boy with a low-key flamboyant flair. We could go on - each member of the company leaves their own mark.

The strength of Babies lies in the universal feelings it portrays so smoothly. Sure, these are nine pupils trying to keep a fake child alive amidst the pressures and self-flagellation of such an important turning point in their lives, but the project reaches beyond the humour and horror of that age. Young and old will see themselves in the characters; the adults will find themselves looking on with fondness at the kids they used to be and the youngsters may learn from their fictional peers. This musical seems to have it all.

Read Jack Godfrey's guest blog about the show here.

Babies runs at The Other Palace until 14 July.


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