(Wo)men Rule Broadway [West End Edition] sees women take on the male musical theatre songbook at the VAULT Festival
“If you strip away the myth from the man…”
There’s no arguing that the musical theatre songbook is skewed in favour of men and with theatre’s enduring love of a revival, that means the opportunities for women to express the fullness of their selves onstage have always been limited (hell, even as I write this a man has been announced to play Mother Superier in the Edinburgh run of Sister Act…).
This is the world US performers Genevieve Flati and Kelly Rogers are trying to reshape just a little with their show (Wo)men Rule Broadway [West End Edition], making its international debut here at the VAULT Festival. More than just a gender-reversed concert, Flati and Rogers compere the evening with a running commentary of how and why these songs have been chosen, exploring and explaining the boundaries being broken here.
It’s a neat way of contextualising the show, reinforcing the message that will be painfully clear to some and yank the rest out of their oblivious stupor. Something seemingly as simple as women getting to express camaraderie (Katie Hartland leading the company in a sparkling ‘Brotherhood of Man’ from How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying) or creative ambition (Hannah Cheetham’s ‘Hard to be the Bard’ from Something Rotten).
I was a huge fan of Rosalind James’ contributions to the evening. A magnificently intense take on Jesus Christ Superstar’s ‘Heaven on Their Minds’ and a stirring Bui Doi from Miss Saigon. And CIara Power has much cape-swirling fun with Hamilton’s ‘You’ll Be Back’, which also does the job (along with a song from Dear Evan Hansen) of reminding us that things aren’t necessarily getting better with any great speed. But Flati and Rogers’ efforts, allied with director Kelly Coughlin and MD Shonagh Murray here, are certainly steering us in the right direction.