The announcement that I’m Getting My Act Together and Taking It on the Road – which for ease of typing, let’s shorten to Getting My Act Together – was to be revived caused a fair bit of excitement in London musical theatre circles. Written by Gretchen Cryer and Nancy Ford, the show gained something of a cult following during its three-year run off-Broadway from 1978, and now a new generation gets to see why, thanks to Matthew Gould’s irresistible production at the intimate Jermyn Street Theatre.
The wordy title, it turns out, is actually a concise summary of the plot. Pop star Heather Jones is marking her 39th birthday with the opening night of a new act, but much to her manager Joe’s horror, her music’s taken a new direction while he’s been away. Leaving behind the banal pop songs that launched her career (and got her to 89 in the charts), Heather’s decided to stop hiding and reveal herself to her audience as the strong, independent woman she really is.
Unfortunately Joe, a well-meaning misogynist, doesn’t know how to sell – or indeed, even talk to – a strong, independent woman like Heather. The ensuing battle of wits is a very personal and angry one, and it soon becomes clear it’s not the new act Heather needs her friend to accept, but the new her (or rather, the her she’s always been but is only now able to show). Along the way, the show opens up a discussion about relationships and gender equality – and though Edward Iliffe’s cosy nightclub set and colourful costumes leave us in no doubt we’re in the 1970s, it’s a discussion that’s nonetheless just as (if not more) relevant today.
Though Getting My Act Together can at times lean a little towards the heavy side, particularly in the dialogue, this is balanced out by some fabulous musical numbers, which range from the uplifting anthem Natural High to the heart-breaking ballad Lonely Lady, and flawless performances from every member of the talented cast. Landi Oshinowo is a joy to watch as Heather; not only are her vocals stunning, but she brings a twinkle and charm to the part that soften the anger in her words. This is not just a bitter divorcee having a rant about men, but a woman who’s proud to have finally discovered who she is and longs to share that knowledge with her old friend (incidentally, Old Friend is another of the musical numbers, and it’s beautiful). The fact that Heather also has a feisty streak only makes her more attractive and enjoyable to watch.
Oshinowo receives excellent support – both emotionally and vocally – from Rosanna Hyland and Kristen Gaetz, as her back-up singers and friends Alice and Cheryl. Along with the other members of the band (Alice Offley, David Gibbons, Rich Craig and musical director Nick Barstow), the two singers radiate an infectious joy and enthusiasm for the music, its message and Heather herself. Meanwhile, Nicolas Colicos cuts a lonely figure as Joe, the only character on stage not fully in support of Heather’s new direction. It would be really easy to see him as the enemy, but Colicos’ performance is warm, funny and at times vulnerable enough that it’s hard to dislike him, even at his most outrageously sexist.
Though the subject matter of Getting My Act Together may not be everyone’s cup of tea, there’s no doubt this is a great production; an energetic cast, pitch perfect performances and the irresistible score are more than enough reason to overlook a few outdated and uninspired passages of dialogue. It seems this is another revival that was well worth waiting for.
I’m Getting My Act Together and Taking It on the Road is at Jermyn Street Theatre until 23rd July.