Sunday 12 February 2012

Songs From the American Motel - Review

Leicester Square Theatre


This review was originally written for The Public Reviews

9 February 2012

Music & Lyrics : Ezra Axelrod

Director: Martina Bonolis

Songs From The American Motel showcases the recently released album of the same name, from American singer songwriter Ezra Axelrod.

The Lounge at the Leicester Square Theatre has been cleverly transformed into a seedy American motel room, adorned with a bed, of course, but also with empty Doritos packs, used beer cans and bedside lamps with cracked red shades, tawdry items that instantly suggest the down-market establishments in which Axelrod has “banged his way across America”.

The songs chart the writer’s journey – as a gay adolescent, pressured into conforming to the straight expectations of his Oregon small-town peers and poignantly described in “Around Here”, through to the present day, gloriously looking back on his relationships to date, and celebrating his sexuality.

.Some of Axelrod’s writing is beautiful. “10 Million Lights” is a soulful ballad, whilst “American Motel” is a brash raunchy number, epitomising what to him is clearly the delicious seediness of relationships consummated behind motel room doors.

Other numbers however lacked impact. “Father” performed after a spoken tribute to Axelrod’s late grandfather, was a softly written song that somehow missed a truly moving dimension. And in “Strangers” the emotional impact of the song similarly failed to register, perhaps again because the structure of the melody was too simple, not reaching the depth of the message of the lyrics.

Accompanied by 6 performers, the close harmonies were tight throughout and the ensemble excelled. Willemijn Steenbakkers on violin was a delight, and Tim Oxbrow impressed on vocals. Tom Parsons of Avenue Q fame proved a worthy bass player and vocalist.  Perhaps too many of the songs were Axelrod solos and it would have added depth to the evening to have further exploited the other singers, all of whom were on stage throughout the set. Also bear in mind that the Lounge is a tiny venue and unless you are sat in the front row it can be difficult to see all of the action.

Overall, some good songs, but the evening’s humour could have been funnier, and some of Axelrod’s narrative less schmaltzy and clich├ęd. The show’s publicity comprises a clever Photoshopped montage of Ezra pillow fighting with himself in a motel bedroom. A neat image that turns out to be a little more punchy than the show it is designed to promote.

Runs until March 3

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