'Bare' or 'Bare good fun, innit?!'

'Bare', Union Theatre, Tuesday 30th April 2013
Music by Damon Intrabartolo, Lyrics by Jon Hartmere
Written for Time Out

A birthday banner, made out of sanitary towels and grotty knickers. Two gay lovers who down the communion wine and a fat girl who'd like to shit out her enemies for lunch. 'Bare the rock musical' sure aint formulaic. It isn't perfect, either – but damn is it feisty and fun.

This defiant musical is a cult-hit in the States, where it began as a rock opera in 2000. I don't know why it's taken so long to transfer here. This is essentially an extended episode of 'Glee', only the focus is on soft rock and the homosexual kids in class.

Set in a Catholic boarding school, 'bare' tells the thwarted love story of Jason and Peter. Tough boy Jason (Ross William Wild) is still posturing as the school stud but cherubic Peter (Michael Vinsen) is ready to leap out of the closet, jazz hands akimbo. As the class rehearse for 'Romeo and Juliet', the two boys – along with their horny friends – sing through their teenage angst.

Composer Damon Intrabartolo demands a lot of his young cast, with a mixture of angry rock numbers, soaring ballads and bolshy rap solos. There are some inevitable dips, particularly the romantic numbers, which can sound a little treacly.

But there is so much passion and spark here! Jon Hartmere's vibrant lyrics and Paul Taylor Mills' inventive direction bring this energetic ensemble roaring into life. Hannah Levane is phenomenal as the students' mentor, Sister Chantelle. Her gospel-infused numbers blaze with joy and suggest a world in which these two boys and their love might be warmly embraced.