Alexander S. Bermange’s The Route to Happiness [Landor Theatre]

The Route to Happiness
A new musical composed by Alexander S. Bermange to his own lyrics

Lorna – Shona White
Marcus – Niall Sheehy
Trinity – Cassidy Janson

Alexander S. Bermange (piano) & Justin Homewood (bass guitar)

Robert McWhir – Director

Reviewed by: Michael Darvell

Reviewed: 24 February, 2013
Venue: Landor Theatre, 70 Landor Road, Clapham, London SW9

From Page to Stage is a month-long season (until 17 March) of new musical-theatre writing presented by the enterprising Landor Theatre curated by Katy Lipson of Aria Entertainment and consisting of mostly one-off performances, including work by James Lovelock, Annemarie Lewis Thomas, David Krane & Stephen Cole, Andy Collyer, Lee Freeman, and Tamar Broadbent.

At the centre of the season has been a week devoted to the latest (and sold-out) show from the prolific Alexander S. Bermange, The Route to Happiness written in response to requests for a small-cast piece. It is completely through-sung with the action arising out of the lyrics and the music. Of the three characters Lorna is dying to meet the man of her dreams, someone who would look beyond the bedroom to see the real woman. She lives in the shadow of celebrity by ghosting biographies of the famous. Marcus is a go-getter who wants everything out of life. He needs to own the finest cars and wants the best holidays. Trinity has ambitions to be a superstar through a fitness video and magazine column, but she has very little talent.

Each character is written for in a different style. For Lorna the music is romantic and melodic; for Trinity it’s more pop-orientated; and Marcus gets something harder-edged and more dissonant. When they sing together their idioms are blurred and overlap. There are twenty or more songs in the cycle and they tell the story more than adequately without resorting to triteness. There is no bathos, rather some moving and often-funny lyrics set to a strong musical thread.

The piece opens with the characters stating their ambitions. For Lorna it’s ‘A man in mind’, for Marcus ‘I want it all’ and for Trinity ‘Somehow I’ll be famous’. They then make phone-calls home in ‘Holding on’, meaning that they are also on-hold in their lives. Eventually they meet at a wedding of mutual friends and they begin relationships. Lorna sees Marcus as the possible answer to her prayers, but Marcus has interests in Trinity and trying to further her career. By the end of Act One they believe they might be on ‘The route to happiness’. In Act Two things go adrift, the smooth-running of their ambitious plans interrupted by torments and regrets. The ending is not readily predictable.

The Route to Happiness is a mature work from a talented composer-lyricist with life in it for the future. With three performers and a minimum of musicians, it would be ideal for any fringe venue to stage. At the Landor it boasted three very experienced artistes in Shona White, Cassidy Janson and Niall Sheehy, all with powerful voices who handled the mixed emotions with the utmost sensibility and sensitivity. Catch it the next time around.

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