U.Me: The Musical on the BBC World Service online
While the lockdown in the UK is gradually coming to an end, other parts of the world are still in the midst of the pandemic. Helping to bridge the gap, BBC World Service have produced a brand-new musical for radio and podcast for listeners’ next fix. The entire project was conceived and produced in no more than five months – and it’s astonishingly good, given the circumstances, but it does suffer from a few related problems, such as a formulaic plot and predictable musical patterns. Despite this, it’s still an earworm-infused love story set during the Covid years, and as such should touch plenty of people.
The plot involves Rose (Anoushka Lucas), who has recently moved to London to start a new job, but before she can enjoy the city, lockdown starts. During her now home office-based work she meets Ryo (Martin Sarreal), who lives in Tokyo, and, despite the time zone difference, they hit it off online. It’s a fairly generic boy-meets-girl story against a Covid backdrop, and the plot point that threatens to keep the lovers apart is of course also pandemic-related. It’s not particularly surprising, but it is apt, and in being so it goes beyond being just a love story and becomes a tale of endurance: how life goes on despite hardships, and how one can find joy – even love – in the unlikeliest of situations.
The music and lyrics – written by Theo Jamieson, who also wrote the book with Simon Pitts – are similarly familiar. Almost always up-beat and constantly catchy, they certainly help to keep the audience entertained for the 60-minute runtime, though they may not offer great variety. Brought to life by Lucas’s and Sarreal’s enchanting singing under musical director Jennifer Whyte’s wing, it’s a triumph to listen to; it almost feels like being in a live show again. Stephen Fry’s narration is only utilised sparingly, but when he does appear, he delivers his lines with the usual charm audiences have come to expect from him.
U.Me: The Musical may not be the most innovative of productions, but considering it was made in such a short time and with such high quality, it’s very impressive. It’s ultimately a short, uplifting show in a heavy context, and it’s offered for free – so it definitely deserves a recommendation.
U.Me: The Musical is available to stream via the BBC from 12th May 2021. For further information visit here.