Presented by the Adelaide Cabaret Festival
Reviewed Sat 26th June 2010
Venue: Banquet Room, Adelaide Festival Centre
New Yorkers, Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, are part of the new generation of song writing teams. They became best friends as University of Michigan music and performance majors and both appeared in the college musical, City of Angels. At that time they decided to get together as collaborators to write their own musical. The very successful Edges (sometimes known as Edges: A Song Cycle) was the result, becoming a hit in America and Canada. Paul writes the music and Pasek the lyrics but, from watching their performance and seeing how they interact so closely, it is impossible to believe that they stick exclusively to those roles.
In 2007, at the age of 21, they were the youngest ever recipients of a Jonathon Larson Award, named after the late composer of the musical, Rent. They are currently writing a musical based on Roald Dahl’s James and the Giant Peach and Dogfight, a new musical about young men about to go to Viet Nam, commissioned by the Lincoln Center Theater. They have also written for the Disney Channel.
They opened their show with some amiable patter, explaining their first song about a boy in a small country town who wants to escape. This leads to the mention of Courtney, a friend from a small town in Indiana and a story of being asked to perform at her parents’ restaurant. We then hear an hilarious story of misadventure and a very funny song about their attitude to a friend who is no longer a friend, followed quickly by more songs and convivial banter between these two who, at times, suggest that they might just be a modern version of the very popular song writing team of Flanders and Swan. There is also something of the influence of Stephen Sondheim in their work but, considering his stature, it is doubtful that there are any writers today that have not been influenced to some degree by him and by Stephen Schwartz.
Shoshana Bean was their special guest for this performance giving superb interpretations of several of their songs, much to the delight of the audience. The first two were from Dogfight and showed the serious side of this duos work. Just from her performance of the few songs she sang in this performance, it is easy to see why she is held in such high regard as a musical theatre performer.
These two young writers offered a varied selection of songs, from the lively to the humorous to poignant pieces, all linked with a great line in patter and some very funny conversations between the two as they interrupt one another to clarify the story and add extra details. This was a most enjoyable performance by these extremely talented young men, fast paced and full of warmth and humour.
Reviewed by Barry Lenny, Arts Editor Glam Adelaide.