The title sums up the intended audience: musical theatre lovers unite onstage and in the auditorium in this tongue-in-cheek representation of the realities of following this career path, and how it can fall short of the romanticised expectations of bright-eyed drama school graduates. Fresh from the Edinburgh Fringe Festival earlier this month, this musical about musicals does not disappoint.


The show begins, and we are greeted with staples any musical actor knows: a pianist; a costume rail and a hat stand littered with glitz and glamour; and four very talented leads, singing about how ‘you’ll love the opening number’ in harmonies that are music to our ears.


What ensues almost seems closer to a concert than a musical itself: storytelling through song at its wittiest by Alexander S. Bermange. Well-crafted lyrics lend themselves to comic timing very well-executed by the principals - Rhidian Marc stood out particularly in this respect with an excellent performance. Meanwhile, Matthew Parker’s direction and choreography encompass the tropes of musical theatre with which this audience is all-too-familiar: from jazz hands to Fosse-style movement to top hats and canes; from melodramatic gestures to seated song delivery to mid-show costume changes.


The characters themselves are not developed as such - rather playing multiple roles, just as a real actor would do. The musical theatre clichés themselves are echoed by songs written about the struggles of aspects of the industry itself - although not particularly memorable tunes, the words are relatable to those who have experienced these struggles and understandable for those who have not. We are presented with issues including failed auditions; pianists changing the key; performing while ill; being an unglorified understudy; kissing other actors onstage; divas and drama queens; and, of course, secretly loving musicals but not wanting to damage one’s reputation by admitting it.


All of the topics above make an appearance in a sometimes excessively light-hearted and comical way, but then again, this is in the spirit of a show which itself is a mockery of people’s hopeless love for a line of work presenting all sorts of challenges. It is evident how much the actors themselves enjoy performing in a show so close to their reality, becoming an audience for each other in their individual numbers and laughing along at one another’s solos.


That said, the performance is certainly not relatable to all. If the jazzy marketing was not enough to put those indifferent about musicals off, audience members could find themselves somewhat alienated by the constant references to shows and actors, ranging from Oklahoma! to the Book of Mormon and from Elaine Paige to Idina Menzel. One part of the show involves the actors performing dressed as characters from Wicked, Les Misérables, Hamilton and Phantom of the Opera - hilarious to those in on the joke but perhaps lost on those who are not.


A metadramatic production designed to highlight clichés is created for a cliché audience, though, and judging from the steady eruptions of laughter throughout the show, it was enjoyed by all.


Dripping in showbiz, I Wish My Life Were Like a Musical is certainly one for those with a passion for the West End. With a cast brimming with incredible acting and vocal ability, those looking for a fun and ironic observation of the musical theatre world are sure to enjoy this show. Exposing the pitfalls of working in this industry while performing with a huge smile captures exactly what this show meant to be: a love letter to musical theatre and all its trials.


I Wish My Life Were Like a Musical runs at Wilton Music Hall from 29th August to 9th September 2023.


Review: Lucy Dyer     Photo: Rod Penn