Edges, written by the talented and multi-award winning duo Benj Pasek and Justin Paul during their undergraduate years, is a beautifully crafted and emotionally charged song cycle that takes the audience on a heartfelt journey through the complexities of growing up, relationships, and self-discovery. Directed and produced by Taylor Jay, this production marks his second success after the well-received run of Ordinary Days at the Phoenix Arts Club.
Tucked away from the bustling city, the Phoenix Arts Club provides an excellent and intimate venue for a production like this. With a stripped-back staging of 4 chairs against projections on the wall, 4 microphones and a piano, the simplicity allows the audience to fully immerse themselves in the power of the lyrics and the beauty of the melodies. There’s no plot or dialogue. Instead, the 16 songs unfold seamlessly, each exploring different themes, including careers, relationships, and the search for the right person to share life's journey. The songs, pleasing to the ears and instantly memorable, make for instant hits on their own. This adds to the overall appeal and resonates with the audience long after the performance ends.
The characters in Edges are not named, allowing the focus to remain on the core elements of the work – the performers, lyrics and the music itself. The small ensemble of four, including Cameron Collins (Man 1), Holly Adams (Woman 1), Gareth Evans (Man 2), and Maia Gough (Woman 2), each delivers standout performances, showcasing their vocal range and prowess. They all excel in bringing the music to life with sincerity. However, it is the collective harmony when they sing together that truly elevates the score. Pasek and Paul's brilliant writing is highlighted as the singers blend and soar in duets and quartets, with the final number, "Like Breathing," standing out as a testament to the ensemble's vocal prowess. Special recognition goes to Gough, whose vocals are off the chart. Her powerful belting and soulful rifts, especially in the song "Perfect," is truly moving and might have brought some tears to the audience (including myself). Ben Ward, serving as the musical director and accompanying the cast, demonstrates superb skill, never missing a beat throughout the performance.
Edges is a beautiful gem that offers a breath of fresh air from the grandeur of mega-musicals in the West End. Capturing emotions through poignant words and music that speak directly to the heart, it is particularly joyful to witness young people embracing this musical, singing their hearts out, and genuinely reflecting the heartbeat of Pasek and Paul. This emotionally charged song cycle serves as a poignant reminder that life is filled with uncertainties; it encourages us to embrace hope and continue living.
Edges plays at the Phoenix Arts Club until the 21 Jan. Tickets: here.
Review: Caleb Lee @caleblee