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Note: this review is of the show's run at the Union Theatre.
A birthday banner made of sanitary towels and grotty knickers. Two gay lovers who down the communion wine and a fat girl who’d like to shit out her enemies for lunch. 'Bare’ sure ain’t formulaic. It isn’t perfect, either – but damn, is it feisty and fun.
This defiant musical is a cult hit in the States, where it began as a rock opera in 2000. I don’t know why it’s taken so long to transfer here. This is essentially an extended episode of ‘Glee’, only the focus is on soft rock and the homosexual kids in class.
Set in a Catholic boarding school, ‘Bare’ tells the thwarted love story of Jason and Peter. Tough boy Jason (Ross William Wild) is still posturing as the school stud but cherubic Peter (Michael Vinsen) is ready to leap out of the closet, jazz hands akimbo. As the class rehearse for ‘Romeo and Juliet’, the two boys – along with their horny friends – sing through their teenage angst.
Composer Damon Intrabartolo demands a lot of a young cast, with a mixture of angry rock numbers, soaring ballads and bolshy raps. There are some inevitable dips, particularly the romantic numbers, which can sound a little treacly.
But there is so much passion and spark here. Jon Hartmere’s vibrant lyrics and Paul Taylor-Mills’s inventive direction bring this energetic ensemble roaring into life. Hannah Levane is phenomenal as the students’ mentor, Sister Chantelle. Her gospel-infused numbers blaze with joy and suggest a world in which these two boys and their love might be warmly embraced.