The Off Key at the White Bear Theatre
Scott Mackie and Santino Smith’s The Off Key offers an immersive musical theatre experience – and it’s title is fitting in the context of a show for this year, which has been decidedly out of tune.
Set in the present day amid the pandemic (though this is not always apparent, particularly in the open mic scenes), the show tells the story of songwriters Sam and Liv, played by Mackie himself and Molly Glynn-Whitehead, in a love story that has gone off key. The couple suffers from a lack of honest communication, so they reach each other in the only way they can: through their songs. Essentially, the musical involves two people aiming numbers at one another, describing the good, the bad and the arguments in between. Somehow, the audience is taken on a journey, beginning in the honeymoon phase, which is full of unexpected musical endearments (Cucumber is a particular highlight, referencing the initial flirtation and simultaneously highlighting Sam’s deep parental issues).
The production adapts to every situation without set dressing. Blue lights signal seamless transitions between scenes: one moment the audience is in a house watching the couple converse, the next in a bar for an open mic night. The chemistry between the leads is strong – and it has to be, considering they carry the full weight of the performance. The audience only experiences the story through Sam and Liv’s eyes and mouths, and Mackie and Glynn-Whitehead are engaging throughout, whether singing or not. Their vocal skill is impressive, and their one-liners receive plenty of laughs. The show’s lyrics are both meaningful and funny, with broad-ranging subject matter, from the private intimacies of a relationship to bigger social issues.
The result is a relatable story that almost anyone can get behind. With song titles like Are You Leaving Me Or Are You Just Being A C**t?, The Off Key manages to be crude and romantic, with effective tension and poignancy between.
Photos: Lydia Fleming
The Off Key is at the White Bear Theatre from 6th October until 10th October 2020. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.