Edinburgh Festival Fringe music review: Under The Ground, reviewed by The Scotsman’s Paul Whitelaw.
This new production from The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland might at first be mistaken for the anodyne embodiment of every insufferable pitfall of contemporary musical theatre.
It begins, unbidden, with a young cast jigging energetically in the most egregious stage school manner, as they over-enunciate their way through a generically upbeat score replete with weak comedy lyrics. Impressive choreography aside, the threat of death by jazz hands looms ominously large.
But once it settles down – one assumes the first few numbers are intended as crowd-pleasers – it reveals itself as a surprisingly sweet and tender piece about alienation, heartache, grief and rebirth.
Set in a cosmopolitan Glasgow subway carriage, it takes its cue from overheard snatches of conversation. Key among these is a young woman mourning the death of her father, who gains comfort from re-listening to a phone message of gently profound support.
Another highlight is an acoustic interlude from an alcoholic busker, which, while hardly subtle, doesn’t condescend. These slower, prettier tunes are the heart of the show.
The gauche earnestness of Under The Ground is charming, because it’s so patently sincere. If only they hadn’t sought to amuse and – ahem – groove us in the first half.
Assembly Checkpoint (Venue 322) until 31 August / listings
Published in The Scotsman on 12 August 2015
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