Our House is just one example of the many jukebox musicals that appear in our theatres more and more every year. The UK tour of Our House only began last week and last night’s performance at the Sheffield Lyceum Theatre saw an audience of Madness fans enjoying their classic hits in a whole new environment.
Over the recent years I have often avoided this new genre of jukebox musicals, however I do enjoy the appreciation of the popular hits achieved by these artists, and Our House celebrates the musical classics provided by Madness over the years.
The musical follows the moral dilemma of the lead protagonist, Joe Casey (Jason Kajdi) on his sixteenth birthday. The musical is based on the incredibly clever concept of splitting the narrative into two intertwining outcomes of this moral dilemma. As the performance of Our House developed Kajdi had the demanding task of portraying this troubled character following two completely different paths, and I personally feel it was his energy and commitment to this challenge that kept the performance so powerful and his individual performance is worthy of a 5-star review.
Whilst the concept of Our House was clever and original, I couldn’t help but become frustrated with the un-developed narrative, confusing plot holes and repetitive structure. It was clear from the beginning that the moral of the musical was to be to be true to yourself and the ones you love, but this was unfortunately told through two very simple narratives which lacked the depth required for a professional production, despite the actors’ best efforts. The second act of the musical was by far more engaging, this may be down to the narrative developing the fluency needed or some of the supporting actors showing greater confidence, either way the second act certainly raised my overall opinion of the production from my doubts during the interval.
Despite the narrative and structural flaws, I must praise the performance of the cast, especially during the chorus numbers which for me, stole the show. The smaller musical numbers were unfortunately hindered by lack of clarity and volume in the microphones, making it difficult to follow the words and concept of the songs. However, the larger chorus numbers including Wings of a Dove, Our House and the stand out performance of Baggy Trousers were nothing but exceptional. The enthusiasm was infectious throughout the audience, with every person on their feet during the finale appreciating the brilliant music and actors on stage. The love interest Sarah was played by Sophie Matthew and like Kajdi she managed to portray the one character experiencing two contrasting narratives with ease and authenticity. George Sampson was tasked with portraying the troublesome role of Reecey and although some of his dialogue was difficult to comprehend, his performance was nothing but captivating during the chorus numbers, with his cheeky demeanour complimenting the theme of the musical.
As a narrative, I would have to give Our House a simple 2-star rating, as although the concept was innovative, a narrative cannot be built on concept alone. In addition, a large selection of musical numbers were difficult to appreciate due to technical errors with sound and microphone projection. However, the ensemble numbers of the classic popular hits from Madness and Kajdi’s individual performance of Joe Casey are the definite strengths of this production, and the sole reason I left the theatre with a smile on my face. I honestly wish the best of luck to the whole company of this tour and hope the hits of Madness are enjoyed by many more along the way.
Reviewer: Christine-Jane Parkes
Reviewed: 16th August 2017
North West End Rating: ★★★