You and I is an ambitious undertaking and promises something greater – a sci-fi musical that keeps human relationship at its core. Katherine Knight reviews:

With a three-piece band on a small stage over 75 minutes, You And I was always going to be an ambitious undertaking. It may be too ambitious for its venue, with both band and cast on top of one another and the sound almost overwhelming.

But such concerns disappear quickly when watching. You And I never feels overly long and songs are given the required space to breathe as this strange, sci-fi-tinted story unfolds.

You And I Underbelly Bristo Square
Lindsay Manion & Laurence Hunt (image courtesy of The Other Richard)

Lindsay Manion’s voice as the shy, awkward Fran is beautifully soulful, while Laurence Hunt’s Robert the Robot catches a robotic voice perfectly, as though emanating direct from the nearest non-branded electronic device. The dynamic between the two is at the heart of the show and works wonderfully well.

The score is by turns hilarious and wonderfully, surprisingly poignant. There are humorous turns from all the cast, including a scene-stealing karaoke night performance from little old lady Ethel with a half-murmured ‘Danny Boy’.

You And I Underbelly Bristo Square
Laurence Hunt (image courtesy of The Other Richard)

And, although a sci-fi show in content, You And I avoids becoming too entangled in the technicalities, focusing instead on the human experience. Here, music is said to be the key to human relationships, and with the band placed front and centre it is easy to see why. There are duets, karaoke performances and wonderful acoustic refrains. The title song, ‘You and I’, is a particular highlight, gaining greater emotional weight as it is echoed and reprised.

Despite touching upon some heavy topics, the show remains a light-hearted affair, cutting deftly through moments of too much tension with a witty line or change of scene. Tom Williams‘ narrative is superb, with subtle foreshadowing and humorous scenes.

You And I Underbelly Bristo Square
Lindsay Manion, Will Taylor & Laurence Hunt (image courtesy of The Other Richard)

When the songs are broached, they are done well. An early recollection of a failed date night by Fran and Ian (Will Taylor) is humorously done, with perfect comedic timing and facial expressions as the details are revealed, “I hit you with my car” delivered with a wince. Similarly memorable is a slow-mo except from the aforementioned karaoke night, in which background characters go through the entire spectrum of emotions, interspersed (as at every karaoke night) with a brief section of ‘Wonderwall’.

You And I Underbelly Bristo Square
Will Taylor, Cara Withers, Lindsay Manion, Laurence Hunt & Martha Furnival

And that, in essence, is what You And I manages to do so well. Although musicals often find it easy to broach one extreme or the other – shifting to zany parody or heavy melodrama – it is rare to find one that manages to handle both, particularly not within such narrow constraints. You And I is a show destined for greater things.

★★★★☆

You And I: A New Musical is now playing at Underbelly Bristo Square until 26 August 2019. For more information or to buy tickets, please visit the festival website.