Music: Yiannis Koutsakos
Lyrics: James Oban and Yiannis Koutsakos
Book: James Rottger
Reviewer: Laura Orton
Ushers: The Front of House Musical tells a story of the unsung heroes of theatre – the ordinarily invisible ushers.
There are six characters in this show and each of them have their own story of dreams and aspirations. Among the ensemble numbers, a solo each is the perfect way to tell their stories. For example, there is Lucy, played by Carly Thoms. It is her first day at the theatre. She wants to be a famous performer, but the others teach her the ways of the usher. She has a beautiful song – Dreams and Ice creams towards the end of the first act and Thoms, (just like the rest of the cast), sings it with conviction and passion.
Composer Yiannis Koutsakos has made a decision to strip back the production and have only a piano accompanying the six voices throughout. This lacks the depth of sounds that you may expect from an audio recording. Some will love this style, whereas others may find this off putting and will desire a full band or orchestra.
That said, the music is really well written and there are many catchy melodies within this album. Particularly the opening number ‘Welcome’ and its reprise at the start of the second act ‘Welcome back’. It will get stuck in your head for days.
It will be difficult for you to decide on a favourite track though, as there are so many stand out songs to pick from. Pick of the bunch for me has to be ‘Half-Finished Story’ sang by Daniel Buckley playing Gary, as he reflects on his seemingly failed relationship with Ben (Liam Ross-Mills). Its a bittersweet love song packed full of emotion from Buckley.
The stage production itself must have a lot of spoken script in between musical numbers, because this CD is only 28 minutes long. A tad short for a full show score which is disappointing. Especially given the quality of this material, you are left wanting more! Because of this, you will also have to read the accompanying booklet which gives the full synopsis of the show so you can follow the story (as well as some background information about the making of the production).
Thanks to all the casts diction, James Oban’s lyrics are crystal clear on this recording. And these lyrics are simple yet beautifully effective. They poke fun at the theatres, patrons and performers alike. There are loads of ‘in jokes’ that theatre goers will love, especially when you realise they are talking about audience members just like you! Yet despite the tongue in cheek jokes, there is enough sentiment within his words for you to care about each character’s fate.
Overall, this recording by the original cast is a thoroughly enjoyable audio CD. It confirms that Yiannis Koutsakos and James Oban are worthy of the accolade that they have received so far. The main criticism would only be that there just isn’t enough of it. But with the skills of their observations, you will never look the same way at a theatre usher again.