2016: The Musical is a show of ups and downs. The choreography and dancing is excellent, but the singing is staggeringly poor. Some of the song lyrics sound like mediocre improvisation, yet others are hilarious. The spoken sketches seem under-rehearsed compared to the singing and dancing, and on the particular day I attended the actors made several mistakes. These students from the University of Bristol clearly have talent, and the show is upbeat and feel-good – but it’s quite rough around the edges.
The choreography and dancing are both great: high-energy and fun, and executed perfectly in time. But the show is really let down by the vocals. There are several dubious high notes, and only a couple of singers can project their singing voice – the rest sound very strained. They manage to get by, but as this is a musical, I was expecting a much higher standard.
The writing is mostly good, but each song has a number of weak half-rhymes and lines missing a syllable, or with one to spare. Impressively, the songs manage to eke fresh, funny material out of a series of political events that have been largely mocked to death in recent months. The characters of Donald Trump and Nigel Farage really steal the show, with excellent impressions and a hilarious musical number called ‘I’m Not Racist But’.
The show follows the story of a student as he navigates the political and personal landscape of 2016 from new year to new year. This is a perfectly acceptable narrative structure, and the musical really didn’t need to be enclosed in another framing device… least of all one involving a post-apocalyptic future. This unnecessary and completely unexplained twist then culminates in a sudden and bizarre ending, exploding through the fourth wall in a meta joke that really isn’t very funny. Thankfully, this odd interlude is followed by a feel-good musical finale.
I came away with a good overall impression of the show: it’s fun, and there are a few very strong performers who carry the weaker ones. But the whole show has the air of the unfinished: as if none of the singers warmed up, and the writers just need a little more time to fix some dodgy lyrics and reconsider the apocalypse storyline. That said, there are a couple of numbers that are incongruously fantastic, and these alone make the show worth going to see.