A rough-and-ready musical with talented musicians and humour aplenty, what Say My Name! lacks in its execution is made up for by pure irreverence.
AMC’s Breaking Bad is roughly 62 hours of family turmoil, violence and shocking revelations of Greek tragedy proportions. With countless accolades, cult status and the fact that it may well have changed the way we watch television, it’s a behemoth of a show – and therefore no small feat that composer Rob Gathercole (who plays the smarmy Saul with utterly irresistible charm) has condensed such an acclaimed and bulky show into a fairly brazen 90-minute musical.
All six cast members of Say My Name! are immensely talented musicians. They alternate seamlessly between an array of instruments with Rebecca Levy even delivering a mean flute solo at what may have been a rap about drugs in the show, though it’s hard to remember when exactly it kicked in as some parts of the musical do indeed feel hallucinatory…
The second song we hear (‘Break Bad With Me’) is all at once folky with tinges of soul and funk influences in the instrumentation. ‘Don’t Be A Chicken’ harnesses all of the composure, menace and (surprisingly) campiness that make up the character of Gus Fring. Edward Hole portrays him perfectly, before slipping easily into the far more chaotic violent tendencies of Tuco Salamanca. It is a true delight to watch him bring more conviction and depth to the pantomime nature of this musical.
Matt Tweddle masterfully depicts Walter’s transition from a weedy teacher, to the calculating and cold blooded Heisenberg. He may even have the best line in the show when he states “your product is like the Andrew Lloyd Webber of the methamphetamine world. Mine is like Sondheim…” and it perfectly encapsulates all the ludicrousy that ensues in the show. Scott Brooks does well in capturing the essence of the more overtly masculine characters such as Hank Schrader.
Olivia Warren contrasts melodious vocals as Skyler with sharp comedic timing as Hector Salamanca. Granted this is not a speaking role, but her facial expressions are unparalleled and genuinely hilarious. This is diminished however when Warren corpses twice on stage, unable to maintain the character of Hector. It’s a shame because her otherwise superlative performance is marred by these momentary lapses.
Say My Name! is by no means perfect (neither is it polished) but where it needs refinement, there is humour aplenty. Take Rob Gathercole’s depiction of Walt Jr. as a puppet version of Tiny Tim for example – his cockney-isms are brilliant. The epic train heist episode is inventively depicted through a silent film projected on a blank sheet and it just works. Still, for all of the gags that land perfectly, there are many that are run into the ground and whilst the show is often self-deprecating, sometimes the dialogues feels too aware of itself. This takes us out of the story at moments.
Impromptu break due to faulty lighting aside, the run time still feels slightly too long. With so much story to get through, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed as an audience member at times – and despite being a faithful Breaking Bad viewer over the years, there’s still rather too much for me to process. Having attended the show with someone who had never seen the original, they found this homage to be thrilling but still occasionally hard to follow. With the entirety of the show’s third season being covered in one song (with wooden spoons as puppets), it’s easy to see how quick a pace the play set. One can’t help but feel a short interval would have helped remedy this in order to give the audience a bit of breathing space to take in all the cheek of this tribute. Despite the odd moments of clunkiness though, it is apparent that Say My Name! is a labour of love and an ode to the AMC drama with all the brass of the original.