Note: A review of the performance on Friday 29th June 2018.
If you'd told me at 7.35pm last Friday evening as, disgruntled, I watched the audience continue to trickle nonchalantly in (the advertised start time of this three hour show was 7.30pm) that some two and a half hours later I'd have a supporting cast member sitting beside me pretending to be drunk while I patted his hand and Taylor Mac sang a lullaby and, more importantly, that I'd be finding this conceit touching rather than annoying I doubt I'd have believed you. But so it was. Regular readers will know I'm not a fan of immersive theatre – that this show, which is full of it, gradually drew me into it tells you how remarkable a piece of theatre this is.
These three acts cover the years 1776 to 1806. The first decade is primarily concerned with the American Revolution, the second takes us on a wild story about the plight of women, the third a drunken night out in a tavern. For me, the best of the evening is to be found in sections 2 and 3.
Taylor Mac's performances of the songs, backed by a twenty four piece band are strangely compelling from the outset – early on I sometimes had trouble picking out the lyrics but as I got more used to his vocal style this ceased to be an issue. In the full show one band member is lost at the end of every hour – here we don't really get that effect but there is a lovely trio for Mac, his costume designer Machine Dazzle, and departing tuba player Reuben Cohen at the end of section 1. The band, a mixture of Taylor Mac regulars and local musicians, play superbly throughout, under the expert direction of pianist Matt Ray and with particularly notable contributions from guitarist Viva DeConcini and supporting vocalists Steffanie Christi'an and Heather Christian.
By this point, although it occasionally unnerved me that I had ended up with empty seats on either side of me, and there are supporting performers roaming around the auditorium throughout, I was pretty much converted to the show. Yes, there is an element of coercion to any audience involvement, but, by section 2, Taylor Mac and his ensemble had achieved that alchemy of persuading me to give in and participate. (Mention must also be quickly made here of Le Gateau Chocolat's cameo appearance as the interval act – being hilariously carried by the ensemble from one side of the stage to the other).