The 24 Hour Musical

FRANCESCA HILL was blown away by CUMTS’ musical depictions of the apocalypse.

24 Hour Musical ADC CUMTS Emma Powell Jeff Carpenter Lauren Hutchinson maria montague Matt Elliott-Ripley

ADC, 11pm, 18th February, £6/5

If last night’s show had been a Facebook status, I would not only have “liked” it, but commented “HAHAHAHA – WOW” on it, and tagged half my friends in it with supreme glee. The CUMTS’ first ever 24 Hour Musical was a giant success.

The theme was Songs For the End of The World, and given that I arrived in the grip of an essay crisis with a mood falling somewhere between black and slate-grey, it could not have appealed to me more. The theatre was packed out, and buzzed with an infectious enthusiasm. The stage was strewn with some torn up newspaper, and adorned with some faux-tabloid front pages declaring the end was nigh.

By the end of Jeff Carpenter’s quirky, perky opening number “We Should Have Seen It Coming” I was sold. The tune was catchy, the lyrics were funny, and a large chunk of the cast forgot large chunks of said lyrics and pulled some endearing faces as they made words up. They even stood in arrowhead formation for a bit. I love that stuff.

The first solo by Lauren Hutchinson, as a rather disenchanted member of the Anglican Church called Barbara, was both well-sung and delivered with impeccable comic timing. A duet in which Matt Elliott-Ripley persuades his new girlfriend Maria Montague to build a nuclear war bunker with him played beautifully with musical theatre cliché and contained some great lines; monsters potentially waiting included “zombies… ghosts… and Tories”. A more serious solo provided a welcome change in pace, and Robbie Aird rose to the challenge of being the “non-funny one” with a raw, convincing performance of a man questioning his life choices.

That’s not to say it was all good. A potentially funny song about soul-harvesters at Death Plc panicking about the additional workload was ruined by the fact that one half of the duo in particular didn’t know her lines. Whilst “I’m Not Racist”, a later hilarious song about a crazy cat lady fully-prepared for the apocalypse, had a large chunk missed out near the end, it seemed somehow less disruptive than regular glancing down at a sheet of paper: by then Emma Powell had already got the audience on-side and we were more than prepared to forgive her.

So, other bad stuff: whilst a lot of the singing was great, some really wasn’t. There were way too many jokes about horse meat. Probably the weakest writing came in the form of “No More Lies”, which at first I thought was being performed badly, but which I decided eventually just didn’t work as an arrangement. In the opening and closing numbers in particular it was quite hard to hear a lot of the words; not just because they didn’t have enough mics, but because the balance between the different parts and piano wasn’t quite right.

But the 24 Hour Musical isn’t about that. It’s about the challenge. It’s about encouraging Cambridge’s musical and lyrical elite to make use of their talent. It’s about pushing the cast to develop performances with depth in a short space of time.

It’s not supposed to be perfect. But last night was really bloody good.