I’m not the world’s biggest Madness fan – there were only a few songs of theirs that were played in America, mostly on MTV, and mostly on “120 Minutes” – so perhaps I wasn’t the perfect audience for seeing the Union Theater’s production of Our House, but, really, I was more than ready for a musical that addressed MY generation after seeing the flaccid Tommy at the Greenwich Playhouse and a seriously not-my-generation Sunny Afternoon back in June. The question was: would it be a jukebox musical or a story-driven show with bonus Madness songs? I was hoping for the second, but, well, what I got was mostly the first.
Now, Our House certainly has a plot, about a young man fighting to keep his family home from being bought up by a property developer (and trying to make something of his life), and while both of these strands were engaging, the playwright unfortunately chose as a framing device that the protagonist was examining the two different paths his life could take. I’m not sure how we were supposed to understand this is what happened (his dead dad comes back and talks to him a lot), but I suddenly realized that he wasn’t simultaneously working in real estate and working at a car wash. That said, I didn’t know what was real, and the cues we were being given as which thread we were following weren’t clear enough for me. His mom seemed the same in both of them, but the host of friends and his girlfriend sort of wobbled between both paths. I ended the night not entirely sure if he’d gone to prison or when, and my confusion about all of this is my primary complaint about this show. It felt all muddled, and my thinking time detracted from my enjoyment time.
That said, the cast is incredibly lively and delivers performance full of energy and brio, very nicely capturing an early eighties London feel. The dancing is silly, sexy, fun and exuberant; it’s hard not to want to leap out of your chair and join in, especially given the pure dance pros brought in to take things up a level. The effect was added to by the great performances taking place in the mostly hidden orchestra room: great job band people!
That said, the integration of songs and story didn’t quote work for me – I didn’t feel like the songs were moving the story along enough, and I wanted that kind of pure musical effect instead of just having opportunities to hear warmly remembered tunes in a friendly environment. Ah well, it was a good enough night, but I had been hoping for brilliant.
(This review is for a performance that took place on Thursday, August 20th, 2015. It continues through September 12th.)