Drew Gasparini's I Could Use A Drink was adapted into a stream back in May of this year (My original review here). The overwhelmingly positive reaction led to that production being brought to the West End for one night only. Last week, I caught up with the shows director and two of its stars to discuss how the show transitioned from stream to stage and last night I went along to see if I could enjoy it as much as I did the streamed version.
This embodied the phrase "The show must go on". From original composer Drew Gasparini being forced to pull out of appearing to two of its performers being unable to join the production, leading director Alex Conder to step in just hours before the curtain went up. Reacting to uncertain and ever-changing circumstances seems to be a pitfall of theatre at the moment, but the cast and crew of I Could Use A Drink more than rose to the occasion on this one.
An expert cast has again been assembled to tackle these songs. The 9 performers include those more familiar with a West End stage including Maiya Quansah-Breed and Luke Bayer and those making their West End debuts including 2020 graduate Olivia Lallo. A mix of experience on that stage has one common thread - the sheer talent that runs through all of them.
What sets I Could Use A Drink apart from others is the sheer quality of the songs. Billed as a song cycle more than a narrative, certain songs are pieced together to make some semblance of a story. Ahmed Hamad's 'Dear Lucy' now features an additional response with Olivia Lallo's 'Dear Tom'. The pair later reprise their characters with Lallo's phenomenal 'Two Little Lines' followed by Hamad's standout performance 'No Turning Back Now'.
Other highlights include Luke Bayer's 'A Little Bit' - a witty and all too real recollection of coming out as gay to your mother; and Caroline Kay's two solo numbers, the hauntingly beautiful 'What Remains' and the sinister and murderous 'Circus'. Callum Henderson showcases a phenomenal voice on 'Fell In Love WIth Crazy' and the new addition to the show, 'Last Loser In The Universe' while Maiya Quansah-Breed shines on 'If I Had You'. Director Alex Conder is fantastic as a last minute stand in on 'Disaster' while the other new addition Roxanne Couch delivers outstanding vocals on 'I Loved You Too Much'.
It is difficult to single out standout performances from a two hour show that features killer performance after killer performance (Literally in Caroline Kays case). but there is something undeniable about the talent and stage presence of Billy Nevers. After a fantastic performance of 'Right Here', he oozed star quality for the act one closer and undoubtable highlight of the night 'Good Stuff'. Backed with his fellow performers, they surely delivered a moment up there with the best performances the Garrick Theatre has ever seen. This was replicated with finale number 'Overboard' which left everybody in the audience thirsty for more.
What made this performance a step up from the streamed version was the connection the group had. From duets and group numbers such as the storming 'Valley High' to the brilliant interaction they had with eachother during the others songs, the decision to keep the entire cast on stage through most of the show was an inspired choice. The common theme in Drews songs are connection and interactions and this was something that couldn't come across logistically in the streamed production. Seeing the group together and respond added that level of humanity and realism that helped elevate this production massively.
I commented in my original review of the stream that "this show has the potential to become something special" and boy did it rise to the occasion in this production. A fantastic array of songs performed flawlessly by a group of some of the most talented performers you will ever witness on a West End stage - all of whom are surely destined to go on to big things in the future, this was as special as it gets. The fact it was a one night only affair means if you weren't there, you missed out - but with a show as brilliantly put together and flawlessly executed as this, Id be surprised if there wasn't more to come for the future of I Could Use A Drink.
There are currently no plans to bring I Could Use A Drink back to the stage but keep an eye on their socials twitter.com/icuaduk for all the latest.
Photos by Danny Kaan