A promising new contemporary musical performed by a talented young cast, Lucky at Greenside @ Infirmary Street shines a spotlight on the fallacy behind reality TV.
The Cambridge University Musical Theatre Society’s latest musical Lucky follows seventeen-year-old Lucy Green, who finds herself forced to move in with her estranged reality TV star father after her mother’s death. Her father, Ricky Pense, is busy promoting the third season of his sordid dating show – which falls somewhere between Geordie Shore and The Bachelor – when his personal assistant Viv suggests he scraps the show in favour of a father-daughter format in order to clean up his reputation. Lucy signs the contract and soon discovers the dark side of fame when she’s asked to relive her mother’s death for the cameras to boost ratings. When Lucy reveals that she did not cry when she found out her mother had died, she is told to fake it: “strangers are emotionally invested in your story, the least you can do is tell it well.”
Joy Gingell gives a charming and subtle performance as our shy protagonist Lucy and her reflective reaction to her mother’s death demonstrates the contrast between her and her reality star father. Martha Cook is a remarkable talent as Ricky’s assistant, convincingly portraying a woman whose showbiz lifestyle has left her numb to Lucy’s tragedy. Cook’s lines come thick and fast without a stutter and her unwavering stare cuts right through you. This is a character who has no time for errors or emotions, and makes the perfect foil to Henry Eaton-Mercer’s clueless, bumbling Ricky Pense. The rest of the cast made up of Henry Wilkinson, Jonathan Iceton and Priya Edwards, make their mark in various smaller roles. Wilkinson, in particular, is hilarious as the camp host of a Love Island Aftersun-esque chat show.
The music is contemporary and light, but not basic. Standouts include Lucy’s ballad, in which she contemplates being unable to feel loss over her mother’s death, and the show’s finale, which begins as a solo patter song before launching into a multipart counterpoint – mirroring the chaos surrounding her. It is refreshing to see an alto lead in a new musical, and Gingell sings the part beautifully.
The biggest issue with Lucky is the ‘The Pense Project’ itself. It just doesn’t seem realistic that, in the #MeToo age, a show like this would ever be greenlit. This thought, along with Eaton-Mercer’s fantastically quaffed hair, led me to believe that the musical was set in the late 80s/ early 90s and I found myself disorientated each time a character pulled out a smartphone.
Lucky shows a lot of promise and I would love to see it developed into a two-act show. Director Alistair Henfrey and writer Ashleigh Weir has clearly enjoyed playing with conventions of the genre, from the underscored montage – played out here through television interviews and news broadcasts – to an emotional reprise. The outcome is a fun and engaging piece which is sure to find a life beyond the Fringe.