Review: DEAD: A Musical at Nottingham New Theatre

5 *s

DEAD is the perfect end to the term: hysterically witty, gorgeously performed, and spectacular to look at. It is an absolute joy to watch, and I was completely enthralled from beginning to end.

DEAD is an original, student-written musical, following a family of 19th century ghosts whose undead existence is thrown into turmoil by the arrival of the vibrant, beautiful, and very much alive Caroline. Embodying the style and glitz of the 1980s, she soon causes ghost-bachelor George to fall for her, whilst the rest of the family struggle with their undead life. Featuring hysterical mystics, singing woodlice, and more 80s dancing than you could shake a legwarmer at, this is a show that is an absolute triumph of student theatre.

It’s rare that student writing manages to create such a unique and immersive world, with characters who you are desperate to spend more time with. Lawrence Cuthbert and Josh Mallalieu, who both wrote and directed the piece, have succeeded in creating a piece that is deliciously gothic, riotously funny, and filled with 1980s pastiches that will keep you laughing the whole way through. It’s even rarer that this level of imagination takes the form of a musical, but the songs and lyrics are incredibly impressive and so catchy that you will be humming them long after the final curtain. Some of the scene changes and aspects of the choreography could perhaps benefit from some tightening, but any minor hiccups in no way impacted my overall enjoyment of the show.

Every single member of the cast excelled in their roles. Harry Pavlou was incredible as George, with a beautiful vocal range and hilarious delivery. Rachel Connolly, who played Caroline, was also strong throughout, with an impressive voice and spot-on 80s dancing. The supporting cast were so terrifically funny that there wasn’t a single flat scene in the entire piece. In particular, Sasha Gibson’s turn as Madge was so over-the-top and hysterical that it stole the show. My personal favourite moment was the opening of Act II, in which the silent porter Sam Morris lives out a sci-fi fantasy, which was incredibly well choreographed. It’s testament to them, and the rest of the cast, that they manage to sing and dance so wonderfully whilst conveying such brilliantly realised characters.

The tech of DEAD perfectly complimented the tone of the rest of the show, with a stunning lighting design that managed to capture both the neon-80s and the gothic setting. The costumes and makeup were also intrinsic to the design of the piece and the attention to detail was remarkably high. From pallid makeup and dreary Victorian garb for the ghosts to the bright and iconic fashion of the 80s, the design team behind this piece should be commended for their contrasting designs. I did feel that the absence of a live band, and the reliance on backing tracks, did somewhat limit the impact of the more intimate musical numbers, but luckily they tied into the synthesized 80s feel nicely. If this show was to be put on again, having a live band would give it an added punch.

DEAD is just pure fun in a show. It’s light-hearted, but full of sentimental moments and wonderful characters that make it an exceptional piece of musical theatre. Get yourself an early Christmas present and go and see this show!

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Edited by Jenine Tudtud