It's a good time for new musical theatre. While the doors may be remaining closed for a little while longer, creative juices have been flowing perhaps more than ever and new pieces of musical theatre are emerging at rapid speed. One such example is In Pieces - a musical by Joey Contreras consisting of his more musical and pop songs presented as one story. Originally presented at the Lincoln Center, a highlights album featuring stars of Broadway was released earlier this month. Now it's time for the stars of the West End to have a turn as the piece is presented online in an astounding virtual production.
Blurring the boundaries of a straight up musical narrative and a song cycle, In Pieces looks at those little moments in love that can lead to the start of the relationship, a first date, an integral moment in that relationship, the end of it and even what happens after the end. Seemingly unconnected characters all take turns telling their stories in this sung through musical but are all cleverly tied together through on screen interactions and group performances.
The main selling point of In Pieces are the songs. I was previously unfamiliar with any of the numbers in the show but the first time listening to them it felt like I'd known them forever. Full of earworms, the songs are of a consistently high standard all sounding like instant classics. Some more classic musical sounding numbers while others verge more on the pop side, the whole collection left me longing to listen to them again - thank God for Spotify!
It is difficult to single out any particular standout songs - such is the standard of them all. Highlights include the always wonderful Jordan Luke Gage on the joyous and upbeat 'Love Wildly', Danielle Steers showcasing why she is (literally) a Queen on numbers 'Young Kind of Love' and 'With Him', graduate Kyle Birch proving why he is destined to be an absolute superstar on 'Unsaid', Beccy Lane's utterly mesmerising 'Another New York Love Story' and Amy Di Bartolomeo's phenomenal 'Singin' The Same Line'.
As you can probably tell, the cast are all exceptional in this production. A brilliant mix of West End leading players and up and coming talents, they all work seamlessly together exhibiting flawless chemistry with eachother. Luke Street and Hiba Elchikhe channel a complicated history as we speed through their relationship in an extended sequence, reminiscent of The Last Five Years and equally as masterful. Ross Harmon's moments with Jordan Luke Gage has such immeasurable chemistry, they will surely have a whole fanbase shipping them.
The high value of this production doesn't stop with the cast and the high quality music - Brilliantly directed by Louis Rayneau, the show also features intense, complicated and often frantic choreography - at times looking like something out of High School Musical, the energy bursts straight out of the screen and creates utter joy. The use of sign language in one early sequence is an inspired touch. In a week full of disappointing news regarding inclusivity in theatre, there are no such issues here with one scene making the effort to include all different LGBTQ+ flags - a portion of ticket sales from In Pieces will go to the LGBT Foundation.
Where this production really moves to genius level is the setting. While it is meant to be set in America, they have used Kidzania to create a brilliant use of space. It's surprising nobody has thought of using that area before as it lends itself to so many different scenes - it even has a stage for the cast to perform on - the theatre in Kidzania has now been renamed the Future Spotlight Theatre as they have been given the exclusive rights to film there. The result is a glossy affair that looks like it came straight out of an American city - extra points for the innovation of setting it there.
As the show draws to its conclusion, the overarching theme becomes clear "Can we only love in pieces?" - showing these snapshots of the complexities of relationships really hammers the key message home - dipping in and out of various characters stories never feels jarring and always segues naturally.
In Pieces is remarkable in the sense that it feels instantly familiar. There is a real comfort and ease in the songs and the way they are presented - the result makes this feel like an instant classic. Pure joy to watch, the euphoria transcends from the screen right in to your heart while the more emotional moments are played with sensitivity and sincerity.
An incredible cast lending their talents to some quite frankly phenomenal songs from Joey Contreras would already make this a standout show. Add to that the genius setting and brilliant high value production, the end result is one of the best virtual productions I have ever seen. In Pieces is a masterpiece. Mark my words, you will be hearing a lot more about this show in the future.
Photos by Liz Heinrichs
In Pieces is available to stream until Monday 26th April. Tickets from https://www.stream.theatre/season/83