The Melody Blog

Mon 15th – Sat 27th August 2011

reviews

Craig Slade

at 11:08 on 20th Aug 2011

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How to characterise The Melody Blog succinctly... well, it’s essentially a musical version of the revered Jim Carrey film “The Truman show”. I would love to believe that the writer/director has never seen Truman’s 1998 existentialist tour de force and wrote The Melody Blog through a pure act of divine inspiration, but the parallels, from concept to characters to plot, are just too many. It is essentially as if she hoped that none of her audience members had seen the aforementioned film and wanted to pass this off as entirely her own creation, but in my eyes it would have been much better to accept the affiliation and run with it, paying full homage to what must have been her predominant inspiration, rather than pretend there was nothing wrong.

To clarify, then, this is an exposé of the world of Melody and Harmony, children raised in a world populated only by music, where people sing and play all the time rather than ever speaking, as the result of rich and musical-megalomaniac parent Vincent, who wanted to raise a musical prodigy after he himself wasn’t accepted at RCM. The Melody Blog itself is an immensely successful (hypothetical) website on which all of Melody’s movements are broadcast 24/7, and many of the songs she sings are converted into hit records with her accompanists. Product placement, naturally, also pays Christof... I mean – Vincent – royalties.

It is a shame, because this is a nice concept, and a wonderful hypothetical adaptation of Andrew Niccol’s original screenplay for The Truman Show, but it needs to acknowledge that, and it requires more talent than it had. Whereas the cast members performed well, when your main characters are prodigies, raised only in song and tune, your leading lady needs to be Christine Daaé with her singing and your leading man Jimmy Hendrix on his guitar. Whilst the young cast of this piece did well, the plot called for more. Additionally, casting James Rowbottom as main character Vincent, when he often appeared uncomfortable, mumbled his lines, and took on ‘shrewd businessman’ rather than ‘crazed tyrant’, seems an odd decision.

Songs also appeared as if they were thrown in for the sake of it. The commentator (come MelodyBlog.com lighting designer come Melody-admirer-romantic interest) Rubato spent most of the first half nervously explaining what would happen next on stage, only to have it conveniently happen on stage moments later; its artificiality was one of its major weaknesses. Also, to spend the amount of explaining the concept that this piece did, when the audience pretty much already understands it completely from Truman’s exploits 13 years ago, seems unnecessary.

I would love to see writer-director-composer Chloe Tingey return to this piece in ten years time. I would love to see some of the music updated after a few years at music school (the majority was top-notch) and I would love to see her get Hal Prince, Tim Rice, and some world-beating vocalists and instrumentalists on board, with a multi-thousand pound budget per performance – because that’s what a piece this ambitious needs. I would have also really loved the thing that everyone wanted to happen at the end, happen – Melody should have actually spoken and escaped from her island prison. I know Tingey won’t care about my criticism because she has a highly successful compositional career ahead of her, and I envy her that much – this piece was perhaps just too ostentatious this early in life. The Melody Blog is enjoyable, and a wonderful concept, but it could have been so much more, and steals from one of my favourite films a little too much.

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Jonathan Grande

at 17:05 on 20th Aug 2011

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Finding an original idea that will work within the challenging genre of musical theatre is no mean feat. But in The Melody Blog, Chloe Tingey has done just that, with her touching story of a girl brought up by her parents in a world where there is no speech, only song, and every moment of her Truman Show-esque life is captured on camera and posted online in a live video-stream that takes the world by storm. Pandora’s Productions’ show provides an enjoyable hour’s entertainment from an impressively multi-talented young cast, but it is the hint of what may be to come from some of these young stars that make it such an exciting and engrossing piece of theatre.

Tabitha Tingey as Melody is undoubtedly the onstage star of the show, with a stunning and captivating voice that ranges from Italian Arias to pop-style break-up songs with an effortless ease. But, just like her character, Tingey also has the rare ability to simply mesmerise an audience as soon as she opens her mouth to sing; she acts through her songs and engages with the lyrics with a subtlety but power that suggests maturity well beyond her years, creating depth of character and depth of emotion without ever speaking a single word. Remember the name.

Unfortunately, James Rowbottom struggles as Melody’s egotistical and controlling father, with a stilted performance that never convincingly conveys the sinister and even violent sides of his character, and the piece occasionally lacks momentum and drive as a result. But generally, Tingey is ably supported by a strong cast of actors, singers and musicians. Abi Simpson plays Melody’s best friend Toccata with an endearing sense of loyalty, and in her confrontation with Tingey their voices work together beautifully to spine-tingling effect. Andi Bradley squeezes every ounce of humour out of Violetta, the slightly off the wall cousin-cum-website-designer, and Alfie Tingey’s fingers never stop strumming as the guitar-playing brother accompanying Melody wherever she goes and whatever she sings.

But perhaps the star of the show is writer Chloe Tingey, who has written one of the most original new musicals I have seen in a while, and the one with the most legs; unlike many new musicals, The Melody Blog deserves and merits further development. Firstly, freeing itself from its Truman Show roots would allow Tingey to explore deeper many of the themes and issues only hinted at in the current production, from sibling dependency to the raising of a child prodigy, and from the power of the internet to the fickleness of the music industry. Given that it is during moments of spoken dialogue that Tingey’s book is at its weakest, and given that the story focuses on a girl for whom speech doesn’t exist, the show would also perhaps benefit from being entirely sung-through. Some of the staging and design could be tidied up as well, and many of Melody’s songs could afford to be lengthened when there aren’t pressures to keep the show to sixty minutes.

This is an impressive piece of work from a young group that, whilst a little uneven, has some real highpoints, and hopefully won’t be the last we see of The Melody Blog and its cast and creators.

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Comments

Penelope Moffatt; 24th Aug 2011; 08:53:08

But then, shouldn't your revered Truman Show have "paid homage" to Mark Dunn's stage play Frank's Life?

http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/hollywood-stole-my-life-1201232.html

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