A family musical based on an Old Testament story didn't work out too badly for Andrew Lloyd Webber so I can see why Lee Wyatt-Buchan (book and lyrics) Aldie & Sandy Chalmers (music) and director Simon Greiff might want to give it a go as well. Stand Tall goes for the David & Goliath story, repackaged into a "rock musical" (though the influences actually range from rap to country) about bullying. I have to say it's not easy to judge this fairly, as I don't know how other performances have been but this Sunday matinee's audience consisted of me and just four other people. So however much gusto the cast throw into proceedings (and they do) you're never going to get the full intended effect. I'm sure it's embarrassing for the cast when this happens but I find it quite embarrassing to be part of such a small audience as well. I like to go to the front in these circumstances so the actors aren't staring at a completely empty front row but the other four people had other ideas so it ended up being just me.
The musical's rather vague take on the story sees shepherd David (Ryan O'Donnell) in love with Princess Mia (Natasha Barnes) but afraid of her father King Saul (Martin Pirongs, playing all the dads.) Jack Shalloo's Goliath challenges him to a guitar-off to determine if the rumours of him being prophesied as the next king are true, but we see the bully's own behaviour is caused by the way his father treats him. The obvious show-stealing role goes to Keisha Amponsa-Banson as an angelic messenger stuck in the body of a black sheep. The sheep-based theme of the show seems to have got to designer Martin Thomas, as there's a lot more chunky knitwear on show than I usually associate with a rock'n'roll look.
One of the better songs is called "So Indecisive" and it's rather apt as the show doesn't seem to know what it wants to be. A lot of the short songs are catchy and show a lot of potential but in the show's current form that potential is largely underexplored; while Wyatt-Buchan's book just isn't very strong at all. So while you can see there's some ambition to make a fully-fledged musical, it feels too often like something that should be touring schools with its anti-bullying message, and some of the cast are clearly better than the material, however gamely they get behind it. The cliche is that musicals aren't written, they're rewritten, and this feels like a very early workshop of a promising but far-from-finished show.
Stand Tall by Lee Wyatt-Buchan, Aldie Chalmers and Sandy Chalmers is booking until the 12th of November at the Landor Theatre.