New Musicals are either a hit or a miss. ‘Are you as Nervous as I am?’ is definitely a hit!
The story follows Peggy who after experiencing a troubled childhood stumbles into stardom and reconnects with her sister who she was separated from as a child and begins to experience the highs and lows of the performing industry while looking for love.
Talented young performer Megan Donovan opens the show as Young Peggy with her angelic voice in ‘My mother said’ with Sarah Ingram as her cruel and uncaring mother who we see abusing her from the very first line and keeps popping up to remind Peggy where she came from. A duet between Peggy and Young Peggy clearly shows the switch as Peggy escapes to London to start a new life and find her runaway sister.
From the second we meet the Outstanding Katie Elin-Salt as comedic and bubbly Peggy Starr she commands the stage and the audience is instantly rooting for her, throughout the whole show I was captivated by her presence. The transformation of her character from the start to finish is unrecognisable. Starting as a geeky and gawky young girl to a sophisticated and accomplished woman. She was at her most exuberant strutting around the stage in her swimsuit and fur coat. Her talent knows no end as she goes through a rollercoaster of emotions from the goofy ‘Doing the best we can’ as she arrives in the big city, to the powerful ‘What the hell is it for’, as she loses control.
She is perfectly matched with Emma Thornett as Peggy’s long lost sweet and selfless sister Janet. Although Peggy’s main goal in going to London was to find her sister when Janet turns up at one of Peggy’s parties she is rather dismissive. Janet ultimately becomes Peggy’s lackey and is always in Peggy’s shadow despite the synopsis that is meant to follow both of the sisters , as Janet (Thornett) has an equally beautiful voice and it is a shame we don’t get to see the character develop. Janet becomes Peggy’s rock and it is rather touching to see the relationship thrive as the pair face hard times together.
Sarah Ingram then doubles up as Flamboyant and Fancy Christine (a complete contrast to the Mother that I did not even recognise it was the same actress) who becomes the perfect match as Janet’s love interest .It is great to see the queer representation in this show, however the relationship seems to be brushed aside to focus on Peggy ,and it would be good to see a progression of the connection between the characters.
Bill Ward gives a great performance as sleazy and selfish Bob who was the first to take a chance on Peggy for his own benefit even when she had no desire for fame. The song ‘A man like me’ is rather heartwarming as Peggy is given the chance to sing with the man who she would sing along to on the radio. We then get to see his vicious side as he tries to control Peggy and begins to abuse her (back to her childhood roots) and finally viciously causes a scene at one of her parties that results in a serious incident ending Act 1 on a cliffhanger.
Peggy then meets Larry laid back and love-struck budding Actor played by Daniel Abbott (a complete contrast to her ex-husband Bob ) who Peggy falls in love and wishes to start a family with as she decides to settle down in Hollywood. However, Larry gets swept up by the fame and fortune of Hollywood leaving Peggy unlucky in love with a drinking problem.
Kevin Jenkin’s sets were minimalist and functional which meant they didn’t detract attention from the actors. Simple furnishings clearly signify the locations and represent the changing eras. However, more could have been done with the lighting to create different settings as it was somewhat dingy and dull throughout. The musical is set over a large, thirty year time frame which was well executed.
The music by Leighton James House is classically stunning and era-appropriate. I counted a whopping 20 songs overall – most of the score was made up of Peggy’s solo ballads as she goes through her career (even if some are a little similar) , I am not complaining as Elin-Salt’s voice is euphonious to listen to! It would have been nice to have more variety. The stand-out songs were ‘With all my heart’ as Bob continues to control Peggy and ‘Something Starting’ as new romances blossom, where the four voices blend seamlessly together.
Throughout the duration of the production, I often found myself with goosebumps or on the edge of tears as I really connected to the beautiful story. A wonderful depiction of women’s liberation and desires whilst shackled to a man. Peggy’s heart rendering performance, a desperate search to belong as she loses control.
‘Are you as Nervous as I am?‘ is a glorious new musical full of huge potential and leaves you with the biggest smile on your face. The highlight being the accomplished performers who bring it to life. Heart-wrenching at times yet so full of joy and life.
Are You As Nervous As I Am?
1-23rd October 2022
Tickets available at https://www.areyouasnervous.com/