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Wasted Love
Published on Thursday, 11 August 2011

4 stars

C venues - C (venue website)
4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 14, 16, 18, 20, 24, 26, 28 Aug, 12:00pm-1:00pm
Reviewed by Lee Zhao

 Parental Guidance. Parents or guardians should consider the content of this show if children are attending.

Wasted Love is one of three musicals (two of them new) which the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama are bringing to the Fringe. The names of award-winning writers John and Gerry Kielty may be familiar to any dedicated musical-theatre-goers in Edinburgh.  With their pedigree, it's no surprise that the production is slick, the singing is sublime and the choreography is refreshingly energetic.

The musical follows the trials and tribulations of a broken-hearts support group, and I get a feeling that the music is meant to be part of the healing process: the keyboard player leads the group, and encourages the members to 'share' through the medium of song. The audience are also members, with the fourth wall broken in the first ten seconds and then ultimately bulldozed by the penultimate sing-a-long number.

At its heart, Wasted Love is a twisted romantic satire. It starts with the usual take on romance and relationships offered by musical theatre (and sitcoms), then adds something a little bit surreal and often outrageous. Sure, the humour at times is incredibly crude, and certainly pushes or breaks through the PG guidance rating, but it somehow works. I laughed along with it even though I knew I really, really shouldn't.

But what struck me the most is the how comfortable the excellent ensemble cast were when inhabiting their characters. It only took one scene for me to feel an instant connection, and buy into the group dynamic. This was possibly because everyone was playing heightened caricatures of themselves, and indeed using their real names. No corny artificial accents: the Lancashire lass was played by a Lancashire lass, the dashes of Americana were provided by native Canadians and the creepy Scottish almost-stalker? You guessed it.

It's sad then, that all this good work was skewered by an out-of-character ending. Despite sending up the romcom musical, this becomes a romcom musical with a schmaltzy clichéd resolution, and an unnecessary final chorus. If that was the intention of the writers, then there wasn't enough irony in the final scenes for it to come across. The songs were also much better when acoustic or a cappella and not wading through cheesy piano ballades; it seemed telling that every time a ballade arrived, the lyrics lost their satirical edge.

Still, apart for its final ten minutes, Wasted Love is a potent antidote to the conventional musical. And at the least, it's a very guilty pleasure.

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