A warm and precise supporting performance from Seann Miley-Moore isn’t enough to save GUY: A New Musical from a slight, banal narrative and a string of stock characters.
The amount of work that’s gone into the development of Stephen Hyde and Leoe Mercer’s GUY: A New Musical is apparent, but it’s a tough show to review – because it’s equally difficult to ignore how little it translates to a polished and insightful final presentation.
The story’s slight: Guy (who’s white and cis and middle-class and able-bodied, but a little chubby) is an introverted graphic designer looking for a boyfriend. Brendan Matthew is vocally competent, but his character has as many dimensions as a cartoon character. He’s a hackneyed cliché of the ‘nice-but-body-conscious-and-unlucky-in-love’ gay man, and the supporting characters – perhaps with the exception of Seann Miley-Moore’s Aziz – are another level of archetype still. This’d be fine if stock characters were what the Manchester-based company were going for, but the programme claim – that the company has ‘an eye for real-life characters’ – doesn’t exactly support that.
Hyde’s techno score isn’t particularly to my taste but that’s irrelevant: it’s ambitious, occasionally intricate and at least not as pedestrian as the narrative. Whilst the show’s insight into the hedonism of contemporary gay ‘culture’ still rings true though, the film (2010) and TV series (2012) responsible for popularising the modern definition of a ‘catfish’ have been out for long enough now for everyone to be familiar with how these stories end. So the moment (in Act 1 Scene 1…quite early basically) where Guy hears it’s possible to ‘reinvent’ himself by assuming someone else’s identity online, it’s glaringly obvious how our protagonist will ‘fall’ before waking up to the ‘if you can’t love yourself, how in the hell‘ message that’s already been permeating gay culture since before Michelle Visage joined the panel. I sit there waiting for that moral to be advanced or subverted or frankly anything, that’d justify this original musical’s existence, but to be honest, I leave disappointed.
GUY: A New Musical‘s nicest – if only real – insight is into the importance, and benefit, of gays sustaining platonic relationships with other gays. Homosexuals being kind to each other, without any ulterior motives, is an important narrative which gets precious little stage or screentime (presumably because writers like playing with romantic and/or sexual tension, it’s ‘dramatic’) – and leoe&hyde’s show would’ve satisfied me (and carved out a USP for itself) far more by leaning into that, rather than reverting to a narrative everyone’s become accustomed to expect.
Seann Miley-Moore (yes, we thought we recognised the name too…X Factor 2k15, eat your heart out) is the show’s main saving grace: precise and disciplined in his physicality and character decisions and the possessor of a really warm and relaxed energy. But unfortunately he’s not enough to save it from a banal plot and uninspired (almost non-existent) production design.