People ****

Tucked away in the Queens Dome is a simple yet touching and thoroughly enjoyable musical cabaret.  People is a melodic musical more intent on clever insights in the human condition than it is on epic numbers, and it feels more truthful in its parade of characters than many straight dramas currently out there.

There is no flash choreography or performance-stealing design concepts, just five people, three singer/actors and two musicians, who give us a humane portrait of a number of unconnected people in various stages in their lives.  Most of the songs are solid with a fairly consistent score (created by numerous people) and lyrics filled with intelligence.

Directed by David Levin, the man also behind the lyrics, the production keeps things straightforward with all five company members remaining onstage at all times.  Levin’s staging is quite conservative, with occasional movement used only to highlight musical themes and using the actors not involved in a number as active witnesses.  All three of his actors, Cassidy Janson, Lindsey Danvers and Steven Wren, have excellent voices and manage to change characters and temperament with ease.  Levin is also greatly assisted by Jon Beales, the musical director and pianist, and cellist Robin Mason, both of whom play brilliantly.

This production will probably not make converts out of those who claim to flat-out dislike musicals.  However, for those of us who take pleasure in the art form, People is a pure delight that manages to be charming, seductive, touching, heartbreaking at times but always with a ring of truth.  It comes highly recommended.

Playing at the Pleasance Dome from 15.50-17.05 until August 31 (off on Tuesdays).


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