Theatre Review: Phoenix, Pleasance Dome - 10Dome (Venue 23), Edinburgh

Andy Gallo stars in the one-man musical Phoenix, written by Richard Marsh
Andy Gallo stars in the one-man musical Phoenix, written by Richard Marsh
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Canny rhymer Richard Marsh (Dirty Great Love Story, Wingman) is the writer behind this one-man musical starring actor and musician Andy Gallo, a modern fairytale from Tinseltown spliced with a heavy dose of kitchen-sink realism.

Ash Phoenix fell in love with music at an early age, although his taciturn father has had none in the house since his beloved wife died. At 18, he is off, hitch-hiking to Pasadena with stars in his eyes, arriving in 1964 on the same day as the Beatles, and falling for Alma, a waitress and wannabe actress.

Alma’s big break arrives in the form of a part in an early Bond film, but not before she gets pregnant. When Ash is left to look after baby Lenny – in secret, on the producer’s insistence – it’s not surprising their relationship can’t take the strain.

But how can he pursue his dreams of being a musician with a baby in tow? And ten years on, when he meets Alma again – now a Hollywood star – can he bear to tell Lenny the truth about his mother’s identity?

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It’s an ambitious project, a story spanning decades with songs in a variety of styles on which Marsh collaborated with songwriter Jessica Sharman. Gallo does a superb job of juggling acting, singing, storytelling and playing a variety of instruments, while bringing a wry, down-to-earth charm to the part.

While the retro setting – the Hollywood of the 1960s and 1970s – initially seems an unusual choice, the story is all the more magical for being removed from our own time. Meanwhile, the questions about how to combine parenthood with a creative and fulfilling career feel bang up to date. Even Marsh’s tendency to write in rhyming couplets doesn’t get in the way as this crowd-pleaser hits all the right beats.

Until 26 August. Today 1:20pm.

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