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Apply Within
Published on Sunday, 14 August 2011

3 stars

Pleasance Courtyard (venue website)
3-29 Aug, 1:30pm-2:30pm
Reviewed by Lee Zhao

 Family-friendly. Suitable for all ages.

Apply Within is a comedy musical about job-hunting.  Have they done enough to recruit an audience?  Is it 'you're hired' or is it 'you're fired'?  Well, maybe; it's not as straightforward as Lord Sugar makes it sound.

The plot follows a serial job applicant from being fired, through 'enhancing' his CV and to a string of failed interviews. On the way he meets a host of interesting characters: other potential candidates, including one recurring rival, weird bosses, an interview guru, and all the while backed up by two loyal friends.

The protagonist, Joe, is a constant thread in the musical, whilst all the other supporting characters are created by the other three members of the four strong cast. The range and variety of the characters make me wonder whether the show would have been better told as a straight comedy taking inspiration from things like The Office or The Apprentice. Thanks to these influences - as well as the current economic climate - we can all relate to the wacky types that exist in the interview room and the cutthroat nature of securing a job. Indeed, much of the humour comes from that fact; the highlight was definitely the fast-paced sketch scene, even despite a flubbed line.

Unfortunately, the music is the weak link. The overall style lacks focus with a lot of box ticking: tango, check; love song, check; fast-paced pitter-patter, check; hoedown, check; inspirational power ballad, check. Also individual numbers are highly derivative. There's one that sounds like Ravel's Bolero, there's one that feels like it's from Chicago and one I swear could have been written by Elton John. Halfway in, I was already playing a game of 'guess the original work this song's derived from'. Despite this though, the lyrics were well delivered, with generally strong vocals across the board.

The script has its moments, usually when it wasn't trying to be deep and pull at our heartstrings. The genuinely funny one-liners felt off-the-cuff and not forced from a natural situation. It's a shame the same cannot be said for some of the choreography. Is it really necessary for every German character in a comedy musical to perform a Nazi salute? We get the point. They're German, ha ha. Now let's move on.

In conclusion, Apply Within is a musical by the numbers. There's an obligatory romantic side story and - despite some strong comic moments - the overall plot, especially the ending, is far too predictable.

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