Lift the Musical is, as the title suggests, a musical set in a lift. Developed by Perfect Pitch, the development network for new British musical writing, and written by Craig Adams and Ian Watson, this one seems to have a long way to go before it reaches its full potential. The location is London – Covent Garden tube station to be exact – and the eight characters are given non-specific names such as ‘French Teacher’, ‘Lap Dancer’, ‘Bright Young Thing’ and ‘Ballet Dancer’. Lift is an exploration of the thoughts of a group of people in the lift at Covent Garden, that in some way they are all connected and if they reached out for one another they could change their lives. It’s a kind of modern take on love, life and loss and people and connections.

There are many things to enjoy in Lift – a rock/pop type score sung by a group of young performers foremost among them. Julie Atherton and Cynthia Erivo are particular stand outs – Ms Atherton is a regular in new musicals in London and was in the terrific Ordinary Days at Trafalgar Studios 2 a couple of years ago. Her French Teacher character gets to sing the memorable ‘Lost In Translations’. Ms Erivo has attitude and vitality as the Lap Dancer too. The enthusiasm of the cast, the band and indeed the production team for the project cannot be questioned. However, this musical fails to ‘lift off’ (if you pardon the pun) due to a complete lack of clarity and story arch. It comes across as a series of songs – almost like a concert – and it’s a while before the music lets up for an actual spoken ‘scene’ to take place. The result of this lack of story is that it is very difficult to get to know the characters and to empathize with them. It’s difficult to follow their journey when it’s so disparate and separated. Jonny Fines gay ballet dancer spends too much time on the internet, for example, chatting with Luke Kempner’s Bright Young Thing but this is interspersed and merged with another couple’s conversation, so the narrative is confused. And what is the significance of George Maguire’s Busker (who I originally thought was going to narrate the story) who opens the piece and reads a letter from his lover?

The strength of new musicals like Lift is that they are usually staged in small fringe venues (this is at the Soho Theatre) and so the audience are close to the actors and the action. This gives the show a certain vibe, and it’s obviously resonating with the younger audience, judging from the amount of teenagers and twenty-somethings in the audience. There was a fair amount of schoolboy sniggering at some of the more titillating language too (with far too many references to a ‘pole’) and it’s not hard to see how young people could relate to characteristics of some of the character types on stage. However, this isn’t enough to sustain a show or a story, and after an hour of disconnected songs and story, it just became monotonous until its end about 15 minutes later. New writing is always interesting and to be applauded – and it’s great to see a younger audience attracted – but in this case the show needs further development in order to enjoy the Lift it truly needs.