Daybreak

Words & Music by Bobby Cronin. Additional Lyrics by Brett Teresa
Notion Theatre Company
Tristan Bates Theatre

Suzy Bastone as Rebecca, Kayleigh Louise-Smith as Kelly, Tom Senior as Jamie and Matt Stevens as Dylan

Winner of New Jersey Playwrights Contest in 2011, this music theatre piece here gets its European premier with a US premier opening in the same week. It is a cleverly-crafted song cycle with relatively little additional dialogue that tells the story of two generations.

It opens with four heartbroken people taking a plane from Chicago to San Francisco. Artist Dylan and his wife Rebecca are a couple in a marriage that is having problems, not least that she wants a baby before it is too late and he doesn't really fancy fatherhood. They are moving to California to the house where he grew up, that he has inherited from his parents. The other two, Kelly and Jamie, are both going west at the end of unhappy relationships and, though they don't know it, have similar plans.

While Dylan discovers mementoes of his past and plans converting a room into his studio Rebecca wants it to be a nursery. Meanwhile, on the other side of the stage, pregnant Kelly is looking down from Golden Gate Bridge, thinking of jumping. It is there that Jamie finds and stops her and drops his own suicide plan. They've found true love at last.

It is not long before it is clear the action is taking place in two different decades seen simultaneously. One generation makes calls by landline the other uses cell phones. Dylan is the baby Kelly is carrying and Jamie the father who tells him that being providing for a family is what's important not dreams of being an artist.

Daybreak reveals almost nothing about the day-to-day lives of these people but the songs offer a rollercoaster ride through the emotions from hopes and aspirations to despair, love found and love lost and the difficulties of relationships. They have an almost operatic intensity that relaxes just a little, at least musically, in "Lullaby" for mother and son acknowledging that he is gay. These are not the kind of show numbers that jump to the top of the charts but it is always musically interesting (and could be more so if scored less stridently so that voices are forced to compete with an electric piano that is hardly ever piano). The harmonic use of all four voices is delightful and this quartet of Kayleigh Louise-Smith as Kelly, Tom Senior as Jamie, Suzy Bastone as Rebecca and Matt Stevens as Dylan sing with passion. Stevens made a particularly strong impression. He has a fine voice, and moves easily from singing to dialogue.

Director Hayley Cusick has staged it imaginatively but simply so that the combination of the two time strands works smoothly and notches up audience contact by turning the side aisle of the audience into the aisle of an aeroplane. Piled cardboard boxes and naked-bulbed table-lamps flank the set to emphasise lives in transition. The dialogue and lyrics are not particularly witty or meaningful. "Life goes on. Tomorrow is not yesterday," is not hugely original but with twenty numbers in ninety minutes and these singers it is an undemanding musical delight.

Reviewer: Howard Loxton