SuperYou! the Musical in Concert at the Lyric Theatre Review: Potential to be Otherworldly

Thursday 16 November 2023

SuperYou! the Musical in Concert
Lyric Theatre 

Having made its UK debut performance at MusicalCon in October 2022, where it was an audience hit, SuperYou went on to do two days of workshop performances in London last year and last night had its West End premiere concert performance. With music, lyrics and book by Lourds Lane, the show tells the story of Katie White, a comic book author whose superheroines aid her in navigating through grief, discovering self-love, and embracing the strength of her own voice.

After being lucky enough to catch one of the workshop performances, I was incredibly excited to follow the development of this show and see how it grows and evolves over its various iterations. Whilst this concert version didn't quite live up to the expectations I'd built up in my head, it did have a number of stand out moments and showcased the potential of this beautifully heartfelt musical, and hopefully paved the way for future outings.

What I love about this show is how much passion and care has clearly gone into telling the tale of embracing your differences and being true to yourself. The energy is next level throughout and the performances are so earnest you can't help be charmed by it all.

Musically there's an array of styles, from rock songs to country ballads, all of which are performed with vigour and power, just as you'd expect in a show about superheroes. Leading the gang, SuperLu-cie Jones once again soars, delivering larynx lifting vocals with ease, sincerity and heart. Her shining voice matched with greatly witty and endearing characterisations once again cement her as a star of musical theatre. As her brother and fellow comic enthusiast, Matty, Jonty Peach gives a wonderful performance, I only wish we got more chance to see and hear him. His chemistry with young Katie (gloriously played by Aaliyah Monk) is really lovely and the pair create a convincing back story to root the show.

Completing the hero squad are Joni Ayton-Kent as Seven, Sharon Ballard as Blast, Lourds Lane as Rise and Jenny O'Leary as Ima-Mazing, who all give strong, well characterised performances. The roles themselves are quite stereotyped and not hugely well-rounded but they're performed well and bring some killer vocals. Luke Brady as Jay is really engaging and gets to really soar vocally in act two.

Choreography is a big part of this show, with Maddy Brennan (Mom) and Will Bozier (MiRoar) communicating almost solely through JoAnn M. Hunter's choreographed dance/movement, to great effect. The concert setting doesn't quite allow the movement to soar as it would in a full production but it's certainly a great way to tell the story and is quite striking at times. I do feel that it sometimes covers for a lack of character development, especially with the Mom who is pretty one dimensional but there's a lot of promise and a number of ways for the movement to elevate the storytelling. 

There were also a few balancing issues, with the vocals sometimes being overpowered by music, so crucial lyrics were lost. Also, the setup of music stands across the stage meant the audience were physically disconnected from the action. Moments when it really shone were when these were stepped in front of, such as the closing of act one. Of course, this is a show put on with a week of rehearsal so a lot of issues can be forgiven but it would be great to see and hear the musical in it's full, fine-tuned glory.

Whilst the musical owes a lot to social media, having achieved huge popularity on tiktok during lockdown, something about the social media portrayal in the show doesn't quite work. Compared to the workshop showing, this version regularly mentions virality and tiktok, and whilst this does push the story along, it also feels somewhat cringey and awkward. It does provide opportunity for a discussion on the impact of social media but that doesn't feel necessary in a show like this which already has so many other messages to put across, so instead it just comes across as an underdeveloped layer. Perhaps it's an attempt to appeal to younger audiences but the show has so much to offer in terms of heart, and performances, it really doesn't need anything else to be appealing to a wide range of theatre patrons. 

In transitioning the show to be more "mainstream" and 2023 relevant, it has lost a lot of the charm and sincerity which was so abundant before. The changed plot also means the character development is diminished. Previously, Katie had a clear journey from an unconfident girl, brought down by various traumas, to eventually finding herself and making her own choices; however this time, her journey feels less well rounded and the actual big moment of discovery sort of comes from nowhere. 

Despite its flaws, SuperYou is a genuinely good show that deserves a future life. The potential is overflowing and I hope it gets a chance to develop further. SuperYou is a life affirming show with some wonderful messages, performances, energy and music and with some tweaks to supercharge it, the show could be a really glorious addition to the theatre scene. 

Reviewed on Wednesday 15th November by Olivia
Photo Credit: Matt Marlin and Simona Sermont for Shooting Theatre

 {AD PR Invite- tickets gifted in exchange for honest review}