Written by the award-winning Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, Edges is a coming-of-age musical that deals with the classic questions life as a young adult poses, and the struggles of four young friends as they try to figure out their place in the world. With comparisons to such Broadway hits as Rent and Spring Awakening, it is not surprising that Edges itself was a hit when it first played on Broadway in 2007.
Each song deals with a typical coming-of-age rite of passage, ranging from Facebook addictions in ‘Be My Friend’ to skirting around the word “love” in a new relationship, in ‘I Hmm You’. The contemporary music and lyrics of Pasek and Paul are catchy, entertaining and easily relatable, although at times the writing strays close to becoming clichéd. Some of the performances, too, can feel over-done and predictable, as each of the cast of four plays a one-dimensional twenty-something with very little opportunity to flesh out their character.
The singing, on the other hand, is fantastic: all together Christina Modestou (In The Heights, We Will Rock You), Luke Street, Thomas Henson and Rebecca Jayne-Davies (West Side Story, Jersey Boys, Water Babies) are a strong cast whose harmonies lend themselves beautifully to such songs as ‘Ready To Be Loved’ and the closing number ‘Like Breathing’.
While director Adam Philpott’s current production displays no shortage of musical talent or energy, it can’t help but feel unsatisfying as it ends. Although better known as a musical, Edges is more accurately a series of songs with little or no dialogue and no action. Its structure as a song cycle does not lend itself well to the overall effect, and with little room for character development or emotional investment, the play as a whole seems to lack driving force.
Yet despite the absence of a story or leading plot-line, the fun energy of Edges is undeniable, especially towards the latter half of the show. Ryan Funnel’s lighting design is simple yet effective, working together with Leah Sams’s bright and minimal set design to create an authentic atmosphere. The space at the Tabard Theatre is utilised resourcefully – while not being impressive or grand, it still manages to create an energy that lends itself well to the performance.
Although Edges as a song cycle is enjoyable, it becomes a sort of unharnessed potential when you imagine what you could do if you added an actual plot, character progression or some kind of journey. Yes, there is enjoyment and indisputable talent, but it lacks a storyline to lead it forwards.
Edges is playing at the Tabard Theatre until 30 August. For more information and tickets, see the Tabard Theatre website.