Bare is a forbidden teen romance with a twist. A pop opera set in an American Catholic boarding school, it tells the story of roommates Peter and Jason — more than friends, his mother correctly guesses, although she can’t bear to hear it. Bookish Peter wants the pair to come out, while popular Jason can’t face the idea.
Torn, Peter reveals all to their friend Matt, after the boys are spotted kissing at a rave. But Jason’s confusion leads him into the arms of Matt’s ex-girlfriend Ivy, to set a tragic ending in motion.
The show is about to be revived on Broadway, so LUST (Liverpool University Student Theatre) decided to stage one of the only European performances before that happens. This was a good call, and an education in demystifying the horror of the concept of that thing called ‘pop opera’.
Phil Teles Amaro is outstanding from the off as troubled Peter, beautifully conveying the character’s desperation to be understood, a highlight being when he tries to call his mother, who refuses to talk to him in See Me.
Fortunately, it’s not all doom and gloom, and Bare works because it balances the high melodrama of the love story with some well-placed scenes of comic relief. Sian Holmes, doubling up as no-nonsense nun Sister Chantelle and an extremely sassy Virgin Mary, has the smart delivery and charm to convince as the only character who understand’s Peter’s side of the story.
There was a decent chemistry between Pete Fendall as Jason and Zoe Evans as Ivy, both of whom seemed to shine the more that was demanded of them — and things got rather intense for them both. Lucy Mulvihill was always watchable, bringing bags of character to ‘fat ass’ Nadia.
The device to set all the students’ personal dramas against rehearsals for a school performance is a well-worn one, but works very well in Bare, putting scenes from Romeo & Juliet to music.
On the whole, there are so many things about Bare that could seem contrived or unimaginative, but actually come together especially well in the book by Jon Hartmere and Damon Intrabartolo. There are similar shows that take on the same kind of themes, Spring Awakening springs to mind, but it has to stand out as one of the best examples of its kind. Musical director Jonas Tattersall ran a tight ship of musicians performing an often understated but evocative score.
The only real criticism, and this can’t come as a surprise, is the Stanley Theatre as a venue, which is more used to hosting gigs than ambitious pieces of theatre. With a flat floor it can be hard to see all the action, and the sound didn’t carry as well as you’d expect. But this production was of such a high standard to be enjoyable regardless.