Are you as nervous as I am is a new musical biopic exploring the rise to fame of 1950s/60s celebrity singer Peggy Edwards, known as Peggy Starr. From her tumultuous mother-daughter relationship, conflict seems to follow Peggy like a magnet as she lands in just as frenetic relationship with songwriter Bob Parr. Despite the trauma of both relationships and another marital breakdown with successful movie star Larry Hanson, Peggy Starr still manages to find success to tie up a story of showbiz and shame.
The creative team behind the show consists of Simon Spencer's book, Leighton James House's music and Shaun McKenna's lyrics. The result of this trio is impressive. The range of material is engaging as it is musically unique. The challenging harmonies complement the charged conflict with clever lyrics to match. The arc of the tale is particularly well spun by this writing team.
Phoebe Barran's direction gives us a clear and sympathetic tale of a little-known story, facing the well-known challenges many women face within the music industry. The execution struggles to follow suit. At times the stage craft and movement are limited, leaving a fuzzy understanding of the overall story.
This isn't helped by some sketchy musical theatre acting in such an intimate space. Daniel Abbott's Larry, whilst boasting a great crooner voice, lacks a lot of charming character, coming across instead as a bit of a John Steinbeck's Lenny... Abbott struggles to find chemistry with Elin-Salt and at times looks uncomfortable holding her.
The flagship performance from Katie Elin-Salt's Peggy finds its stride in ‘What the Hell is it For’ giving a stunning penultimate song with an emotionally supported performance. Elin-Salt finds a consistent empathy with the text and largely entertaining vocals. Their endearing chats to the audience during a recording session are a particular highlight.
Unfortunately, the quality of successful aspects, such as the succinct set design from designer Kevin Jenkins, loses its effects, being compromised by traits of amateur theatre including unintentional views of performers changing off-stage and some shifty accents.
It runs until 23 October.
Review: Sebastian Calver Photo: Pamela Raith