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I think this show stands out as being the most book-heavy of any of Dave's shows. Compared to most of his others, the climax and most important scene here happens in dialogue, not in song.

Which means that the themes that are really most important to the story don't really come through with just a soundtrack listen, unfortunately, becuase as usual Dave is not taking prisoners. The ideas of what it means to be an artist going farther than just pure identy and into who you make for, acknowledging that yes, mass appeal does feel good, there has to be someone besides yourself that you are creating for. Ideas of feeling insignificant, that as an artist you aren't contributing anything meaningful into the world, not compared to doctors and cooks and garbage men. An examination of depression from both the character experinecing it and his partner who wishes so badly to help him.

This is also the most outright stating in his works of a concept that is seen often in his earlier personal writings, the idea that "god is in the little things". An examination of "God" not as a higher being but as a sense of beauty and belonging and extraordinary sense of what it means to be human that can only be found where you least expect it. "God is hiding under those 88 keys" is a line that feels like it's from Preludes but it's not! It's from a decade earlier. I love this show not just because of the music, but because I can really tell just how much of his own personal life went into every little bit of it.

This idea of the holy in the small things is one of the two throughlines I keep track of with all his shows, the other being the "holy fool". Octet has both in the same song with "she says there is God inside me" and "oh you fool, you fool, it's all within yourself". Don't Stop Me has "racing and screaming and shouting like holy fools, so dumb so fantastic" and well, the entirity of Seconds: "there will be sunlight in the trees". It's something you can always count on Dave to cover, that there is holiness and wonder in the small things, and that there is holiness in being small yourself, and dumb, and acknowledging that.

Anyway, this is also a really interesting show because it's about composer Sergei Rachmaninov, and the music is intertwined with Rach's own pieces. Sometimes this is very clear, they sit down at the piano and play an entire segment, but often it's a lot more subtle. You wouldn't even motice many of the songs had been written in collaboration with Rachmaninov's original work, along with the work of other composers who make appearances.

I found a recording of the 2021 Southwark Playhouse concert production on this Chinese video site? I have addblocker on, might be a good idea.

Other Dave Malloy shows: