Theatre is in many ways like cooking; bring a range of disparate ingredients together to create something sublime. Miss one ingredient out or use an inferior ingredient and the result suffers.
It’s a analogy that holds true for Up On The Roof, the 1987 ‘musical’ currently being revived at The New Wolsey.
The recipe looks, on paper, good. Some classic songs from the 70s, nostalgia, comedy and a chance to see how time impacts on a group of university friends over a period of a decade.
Now the songs are there, the nostalgia is there but the mixture never really comes together.
There are several reasons for this. The show gets of to a painfully slow start, a group of five university friends are celebrating their graduation ‘up on the roof’ and they just happen to be members of an a cappella group. Queue for a series of nostalgic numbers.
That leads to the second problem – for an effective musical to work the songs need to drive the plot along, but here it seems more of an excuse to burst into song for no dramatic purpose. There are only some moments you watch a group stand in a line, grab a harmonica and burst into song, however well performed.
The second and third acts pick up pace slightly as time marches on five and then ten years but it’s a plot that has been done before and frankly better. Writers Simon Moore and Jane Prowse do deliver some witty lines but overall you never really engage with the quintet or care what will happen to them over the decade.
Performances do redeem the show partially however and make the show enjoyable. Director Peter Rowe needs to look at injecting some pace and energy, especially into the static first act and also try to avoid the numerous scenes that see his cast standing in lines.
Up On The Roof turns out to be a cake that hasn’t fully risen and needs a bit more work in the kitchen to be a truly tasty treat. The question has to be raised on why revive this creaking piece?