Summer Nights in Space, The Vaults Festival
This musical about space isn’t quite humorous, fun or memorable enough to work but features a great lead performer in Matthew Jacobs Morgan as John Spartan, who has been on a solo mission in space, except it is unauthorised and a rather elaborate prank by his friends. He is lonely, his yoga teacher wife has left him via email and his only company is a computer. The highlight had to be Morgan singing the email from his wife in a Scottish accent whilst doing yoga moves. His initial lone scenes were very strong and I had high hopes.
The main issue I had with Summer Nights in Space was how incomplete and earnest it felt. It fails to generate laughs and is too lo-fi to become a camp classic, a la Rocky Horror Show. Oddly I also felt the show lost its momentum with the arrival of Candice Palladino, who had an exceptional voice but just had no chemistry with the production or Morgan. Morgan got Spartan’s awkwardness, loneliness and isolation in space and was a well-written and rounded character. Palladino was given very little to do as the alien and the piece could have worked well without this additional character.
My main concern is the contrasting performances of Benjamin Victor. He was great as the computer, real emotion from the character (a small white TV on a cabinet) but embarrassing as Lethal Space Bizzle, who’s appearance is thankfully minimal. It can only be described as a really bad Ali G, worse than Richard Madeley’s. It reminded me of Poochie joining Itchy and Scratchy or The Great Gazoo is The Flintstones. It was an addition of this irritating character that really wasn’t needed.
I am pleased that Henry Carpenter (Books, music and lyrics as well as musical director) has gone out there and produced a new musical. British musicals haven’t had much luck lately and we need more of them that aren’t revivals or Broadway transfers. As an idea, both musically and story, it has potential but right now it is struggling to find its voice and identity and with a little tweaking it can be fixed. It all just feels a bit lacklustre, musicals should make you feel something and I came out not remembering a single song and feeling mostly indifferent by the whole production.