BARE: A POP OPERA | London, The Vaults

This 2000 musical about a doomed gay teen romance in an expensive American Catholic school has been revived on the fringe, in an excellent new production that clearly has its sights set on bursting out into bigger venues. Nearly twenty years old, the writing does show signs of age, with some scenes coming off as slightly cliché. Rather than fight against this, director Julie Atherton and choreographer have whipped up a high-energy, technicolour, West End rainbow cake.

The show looks slick as hell, with angsty, Spring Awakening-esque ensemble choreography (Stuart Rogers) a constant feature. It also sounds amazing, with Damon Intrabartolo’s pop rock score belted out by a fantastic cast and band, and phenomenal sound tech (Ross Portway), all outrageously high quality for such a small venue.

Lizzie Emory steals the show as “school slut” Ivy, who inadvertently breaks up the desperately secret, long-term relationship between jock Jason (Darragh Cowley) and shy Peter (Daniel Mack Shand). Stacy Francis plays black-‘n’-sassy drama teacher Sister Chantelle, directing the school’s production of Romeo & Juliet, as well as a Beyoncé-Virgin Mary hybrid in a dream sequence. Her belt has to be seen to be believed.

Despite the decision to clean up any trace of grit from the story, there remains a real tragic core to this production, closing with cast members offering up names of recent suicidal gay children, some as young as nine. Yes, the writing maybe out-of-date, but the issues are not.

Love is laid Bare until 4 August 2019.

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