Bare: A Pop Opera - Review
Updated: Sep 28, 2019
“Bare: A Pop Opera” is a contemporary musical with a heavy, pulsating and phenomenal soundtrack. Based in a catholic school in the US it is a coming of age story as the students struggle with their identities, sexuality and insecurities, focusing on two star-crossed gay lovers. During the course of the story it tackles homophobia (and internalized homophobia), drug taking, self-harm, intimacy and betrayal. It’s a heavy story and doesn’t pull it’s punches.
In terms of the plot there was some expectation of a re-telling of stories we have heard many times but this story had unexpected twists and took risks other stories fear to take.
While the soundtrack is excellent it is certainly not an easy sing which meant that a lot of the singing was pitchy in places as the cast struggled with the combination of high notes, volume and pace in certain places. The music is designed for an older voice which is problematic given the ages the leads are portraying. Having said that some of the solo and more intimate songs were beautiful, the acting was on point and the cast bring passion and heart to the story. We were particularly impressed with Georgie Lovatt as the sharp-tongued Nadia with both her solo songs and the range of emotions she displayed in the role. And Stacy Francis as Sister Chantelle stole the show when she let her vocals soar (we found out afterwards she was a finalist on US X Factor).
There are some excellent moments, with the rave scene being a great example of choreography, lighting and costume coming together to produce an impressive image. The backdrop of the set, with religious pictures and church arches, is a constant reminder of the setting and it’s often oppressive nature.
However, the staging is badly thought out. It’s a T-shaped stage that’s too wide for the location meaning much of the seating will miss several parts of the show. An in the round staging in a different location may have worked well but they haven’t considered how best to use this space. Alongside this they have used too much set, having the cast carry two beds on and off the stage numerous times. With such a wide stage it was off-putting and the whole thing felt clunky. The stage and set together needed to be given much more thought as it didn’t allow the focus to stay on the cast as you’d want it to be.
Despite it’s problems “Bare” is worth seeing (and deserves to be seen). There is a story they wanted to tell and it’s told with passion and energy and builds to a heart-wrenching crescendo. We give this three Laura Michelle-Kelly stars.
It’s running until August 4th and tickets can be found here: https://www.thevaults.london/bare