Entering one's twenties can be a scary time. It's when one swaps the growing pains of adolescence for the big shoes of adulthood. But the latter often seems less acknowledged – you're an adult now, society seems to say – so you'd better get your shit together.
The four twenty-somethings in Edges don't (not all the time, at least), and the result is an earnest exploration of their triumphs and trials performed almost entirely in song. Edges is indeed a bold choice by director Derrick Chew – even the much-belovedLes Misérables has its critics because it is sung through – but I'm confident that this production will connect with audiences here.
For one thing, Chew keeps the pace snappy, even breathless as the songs, which are vignettes of love, aspirations and heartbreak, meld rapidly into one another. At some points the songs seem to rush from one into the next, with the actors charging into yet another tune before the message of the previous one has yet to fully sink in. But the musical rarely has time to sag, and the result is a production that reflects the swiftly changing hues of one's twenties when emotions burn bright and a decade flashes past in blazing technicolour.
There is no linear narrative to this song cycle although the four characters navigate a loose arc of self-discovery. Most are peppy, upbeat numbers, and the young cast, consisting of Linden Furnell, Mina Ellen Kaye, Benjamin Kheng and Kristy Griffin, handle the song and dance sequences with energy and panache.
Granted, they do more singing than dancing, but all four manage to execute effortless high kicks and hip thrusts while articulating the lyrics of Benj Pasek and Justin Paul's score – crucial in a musical that relies almost entirely on the musical numbers for emotion. And while the cast does well to keep the party going, it is during the slower, more reflective numbers that they connect best with the audience.
On The Verge of Something Wonderful
Griffin is particularly notable – her rendition of Dispensable, a duet she performs with Furnell about a couple struggling to move on from a breakup, is sung with little fanfare but laced with wistfulness and regret. With the slightest tremor of her crystal clear timbre she takes the audience back to their last heartbreak, and puts her soaring falsetto to good use again in Lying There, another melancholy tune about a partner she cares for but doesn't love. Within the confines of a single number she runs the gamut from hope to despair, and as her eyes fill with tears at the bittersweet closing lyrics – "Wishing I could love you isn't really loving, I suppose" – our hearts cannot help but ache with hers.
Griffin is the strongest singer of the lot, and being paired with Furnell in multiple numbers shows up his rather nasal singing voice. But Furnell holds his own in I Hmm You, where the duo plays a couple early on in their relationship. Their chemistry is palpable and repartee well timed, though their lifts and twirls as they dance the tango could look a tad more effortless. Still, the couple captures that lovely time at the start of a relationship where things are kooky, spicy and coloured with just a shade of uncertainty, all at once.
Furnell also pairs well with Kheng in Pretty Sweet Day, a crotch-grabbing, beer-swigging, fat-chick-dissing bromance that is honest to a fault; the laughter in the audience is in knowing and agreement. By now it is evident that the vignettes ofEdges are light-hearted fare, and their strength lies less in the messages they illuminate than accurate portrayals of situations most have been in before.
But the nature of a song cycle makes it difficult for the cast to flesh out their constantly changing characters, especially when given only a few short minutes to tell each new tale. Kaye's Man of My Dreams, about a new boyfriend who turns out to be (mini-spoiler alert!) gay, is a fun little ditty that would have benefitted from more room for character development. Without it, we are unable to fully invest in Kaye's character, and her reaction to the news – claiming she would rather not know about her boyfriend's sexuality – comes off flippant and a tad unrealistic.
Boy with Dreams suffers from a similar fate, and Kheng, while a confident singer, falters in emoting his character's insecurities in full. More than once he relies on clichéd movements like a clenched fist during the high notes; or the tiny stamp of a foot to round off a verse, and his solo sometimes feels a bit more like a singing performance than musical theatre.
Set designer Eucien Chia's imagining of four adolescent bedrooms, which fill the intimate confines of the Drama Centre Black Box, make it easy for us to enter their spaces, and consequently their minds. Chia stacks wooden shelves, one for each character, with the memorabilia accumulated through teenage years – xbox games, school trophies and the mug of heartthrob Johnny Depp – and when all four clear out their shelves at the close of the musical, it is a nod (if a slightly obvious one) to their coming of age.
By the end, of course, they have all found their footing, and if Edges is to be believed, it's a journey that may seem daunting but is really not that hard. "Let it be like breathing", croon the cast, as they throw their arms around one another and beckon us into their fold, "Let go of being scared that you might not be good enough". Whether we're hurtling towards our twenties or have left them far behind in a distant purple summer, it's a message all of us could use.
Originally posted on Inkpotreviews here.