The loftily titled I’m Getting My Act Together And Taking It On The Road is a revival of the 1978 surprise off Broadway hit (that also featured on London’s West End 35 years ago), that’s currently in the middle of a run at Jermyn Street Theatre. The show is on the theme of female emancipation, following Heather (a singer) who is divorced, approaching 40 and preparing to take her latest act out on tour.
Upon entering the former Monseigneur Restaurant and Club, you are immediately transported back to the 70s, with band members milling around, bare brick walls, colourful rugs & magazines on shelves on the walls. Oddly, the show’s title is projected onto the side wall for the duration. The band is set up in the corner (upright piano, drums, guitar & bass), with microphones dotted across the stage. All of the band members’ costumes, too, are evocative of the era in which it’s set, adding to the anticipation before the start.
Unfortunately, however, it seems to be a case of style over substance. Despite the obvious good intentions, the show doesn’t connect with me – for women of a certain age, or younger girls growing up & seeing it when it was first performed in the 70s, perhaps it’s a different story. But for me, the odd era-specific references feel dated, and I don’t know the context in which the show is set. It hasn’t translated well across time. Rather than showing us a strong woman, as Heather purports to be, we see a ranting divorcee who seems more bitter than determined. Matthew Gould’s direction seems a bit confused, with actors standing up behind the audience too much (and not lit when they are) – it is unclear in these moments where we are supposed to be focusing.
From the set, it’s not particularly clear where the action is supposed to be taking place – presumably it’s a rehearsal in the opening night’s venue, but it certainly doesn’t look like it. The book (Gretchen Cryer & Nancy Ford) is a bit disjointed, and for me is the main problem with this show. All too often leading into a song with “I’ve written a song about…”, or initially being a bit confusing when Heather goes into one of her ‘sketches’ that she wants to incorporate into her show. They are truly terrible, lacking any depth & are devoid of humour. Heather’s manager, Joe, doesn’t understand them either – her having to explain the meaning is monotonous to the extreme.
But it’s not all bad. The songs, though a bit samey at times, have an authentic sound and are actually quite catchy. The obvious standout is Natural High, the show’s opener which is then reprised at the end. The band perform brilliantly, and are definitely underused in terms of acting (though why the drummer sprays bubbles at one point is beyond me). Nick Barstow is excellent as both MD and member of the band. All of the singers involved combine to create stunning harmonies, showing off their vocal prowess.
Nicolas Colicos (Joe) is occasionally wooden in some of the longer speeches, but puts in an entertaining performance on the whole. And it is entirely believable that he and Heather (Landi Oshinowo) have a longstanding relationship. Oshinowo herself is the clear centrepiece to the show, with a knockout voice and a big personality. She does her best to draw some emotion out of the script, finding some tender moments.
My verdict? A show with the right intentions and a decent soundtrack that doesn’t quite hit the mark, despite some good performances.
I’m Getting My Act Together And Taking It On The Road runs at the Jermyn Street Theatre until 23 July 2016. Tickets are available online and from the box office.