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Edges | Phoenix Arts Club

With merely a piano, a small stage, one act, and four incredibly talented actors, Edges is the definition of quality over quantity. Delivering a stunning score sung to perfection, this thrilling and moving song cycle is a masterclass on how to write and perform musical theatre.

Before there was Dear Evan Hansen, there was a little known song cycle titled Edges, written by upcoming composer-lyricist duo Pasek and Paul. Such an intricate and artistically rich score would be an achievement by any merit, but as a debut work at the age of 19, Edges is a truly astonishing testament to the writing pair's talent. A song cycle focusing on relationships from the perspective of young adults, there's a deep emotional resonance within this piece as it examines maternal, sororal, romantic, and personal relationships in an incredibly profound way, and these compelling themes are only enriched by the impeccable performances by the four person cast. The only shame here is that the show has such a limited run - get it on a West End stage!

As someone who's not particularly keen of Pasek and Paul's wider body of work, I never thought I'd see the day when I would say that one of my favourite musical theatre scores was written by the much beloved writing pair. Yet I'm thrilled to say that Edges has swiftly climbed to the much deserved spot of one of my all time favourite scores. Justin Paul flexes his versatility as a composer with an ever-changing and always surprising score, covering everything from patter and JRB-esque grooviness to smooth jazz and heartbreaking melodies, which makes for an engaging listen and allowing the 100 minute runtime breeze by. The challenging score is played with remarkable ease by music director Ben Ward, and his leadership of the vocal talent of the cast leads to satisfying close harmonies. Paul's melodies are just as lovable, allowing for impressive vocal gymnastics when appropriate, but also appreciating the need for restraint and subtlety. 

Equally impressive are Benj Pasek's lyrics, which are as witty and funny as they are insightful and clever; clever rhymes are frequent in bringing unexpected laughs - the entirity of the 'facebook song' is an exercise in genius lyrics. What is even more impressive however, is Pasek's ability to write character within his lyrics; being a song cycle there is no dialogue (save a hilarious interuption within 'In Short') and instead the characterisations are thoroughly developed through the brilliance of the writing.

It would be unfair, however, to place all of the praise upon the lyrics for the show's empathetic characterisations. The exceptional cast of four do a perfect job of embodying the various characters throughout the song cycle. Named simply Man 1, Man 2Woman 1, and Woman 2, each actor multiroles as a distinct persona for each song, and - despite the somewhat cloudy identities of the various characters - manage to portray their desires, emotions and pains with impeccable precision. Each of the actors -Cameron CollinsHolly AdamsGareth Evans, and Maia Gough - have  moments to shine within the show, and consistently impress with their vocal abilities.

The staging by director and producer Taylor Jay is tastefully minimalistic allowing the performances to shine through without distraction, and the use of two stages creates not only a sense of immersion and interaction within the gorgeous space of the Phoenix Arts Club, but also allows for contrast between performers on either stage. In one reprise of the opening song 'Become', Man 1 stands on one stage seemingly calling out to Woman 2, making for a poignant contrast of distance and connection.

Edges is musical theatre done right. The score, lyrics and performances are all of the highest quality, without ever overstaying their welcome or feeling self indulgent. This is a true piece of artistry, and it reveals that it isn't flashiness that is necessary for theatre to wow its audience, but rather talent. Now announce a full West End production I beg you.

Edges plays at Phoenix Arts Club for one more day only (21st January) - for more information and tickets, follow the link here.


AD | gifted tickets in return for an honest review | photography by Taylor Jay


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