Normality is a tuneful new musical comedy about Norman Goodman, a computer and keyboard enthusiast who unexpectedly lands a job in the corporate world. The show, created by Nige Reid and Jules Kleiseris, is currently in development and had its first staging in the downstairs Studio space at the Other Palace. The actors had just ten days to rehearse, while the musicians had only two. Despite one or two jumbled lines, there were no obvious mishaps and it ran fairly seamlessly. But considering it is a work in progress, this review will share just my initial thoughts.
Let it be known that anything is possible in the world of musical theatre. I’m not aware of any other musicals which centre on the questionable ethics of London City Trading firms nor are led by a protagonist that is a lovable IT geek. It is not an obvious piece of subject material to go for, but somehow it works here. The company that Norman (Dan Buckley) is hired to work for is riddled with back-handed practices and filled with scheming individuals and foul-mouthed traders. During the induction of a new recruit, the company sings ‘You’ve got to be someone, or screw it up for somebody else’, which speaks volumes about the world which is revealed on stage. But believe it or not, this corrupt and morally bankrupt setting nicely lends itself to receiving the musical theatre treatment.
It’s undeniably original and full of promise. Considering the short amount of time the cast had to pull the show together, it is in pretty good shape. However the 2hrs 30 running time doesn’t feel entirely necessary and the show would benefit from being shortened. The storyline is thoughtfully developed and takes some fun twists and turns. There are also some compelling sub-plots, most notably the secret love affair between one of the interns and a closeted Trader. The songs are enjoyable and a standout one involves Norman declaring his love for Cecilia (Siobhan Athwal) at a tube station but he is disrupted and judged by a heckling drunk.
But who can say whether it will find an audience? No one can reliably predict which shows will draw in crowds. Just as the very first audiences who saw ‘Cats’, ‘A Chorus Line’ or the more recent example of ‘Be More Chill’, must have doubted whether those musicals could have a future, one is confronted with the same doubts here. I may have been part of the beginning of something that will catapult to international stardom or something that may never be seen again. Here’s hoping its fate is closer to the former rather than the latter.
Normality is running at the Other Palace – Studio until 21 September at the time of writing.