Review by Emily Smith
Dr Lane doesn’t need fancy props or pyrotechnics; he has a chair, a microphone, and a spotlight. His voice, whether talking or singing, is easily enough to keep us gripped for an hour.
He starts with the history of musicals, from arias in Italy to the feline musical monstrosity (my words but his condemnation) of Mr Lloyd-Webber and demonstrates each era and musical by singing excerpts from them. I particularly enjoyed learning about operettas, most famously by Gilbert and Sulivan, and getting a quick run-down of the bizarre plot of Pirates of Penzance, which is now on my to-watch list. In fact, I have a whole new list of musicals to watch or rewatch from Dr Lane’s recommendations.
A lot of major Broadway songs make an appearance, and while Dr Lane’s signing voice is not on a Broadway level of powerful and punchy, he brings his own subtlety to the numbers. He arranged the music himself, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the recorded piano is himself too, based on his stories of piano lessons. He is a multi-talented man and his soft, husky voice is pleasing to listen to even when he’s not singing. I hope he branches out into audio books next.
Once he gets to the present in the history of musicals, he rewinds a little to the year of his birth, and tells his own story, also highlighted by musical numbers. My favourite was the story of his med school years and the quantities of alcohol imbibed, demonstrated by an adaption of ‘Cell Block Tango’ from Chicago to say, “I had I coming, I only had myself to blame.”
I invited my mum to watch the show with me because I thought she would appreciate the medical references as a medical professional herself, but there weren’t as many as I expected. Only the occasional alliterative parallels drawn between performing and surgery, and of course his choice to pursue medicine. So, instead, my mum and I compared notes on the songs we recognised, reminiscing about the shows we’d seen together – this is where watching online with a pause button comes in handy – and made plans to find the movie version of the shows we hadn’t seen yet.
We also got a lot of conversation fodder from his life story. Dr Lane combines comedy and pathos as he goes into his struggles with his sexuality and his mental health. His exploration of coming to terms with his own contradiction to the status quo is reflective and intelligent, and punctuated by highly emotional songs, most impactfully those from Miss Saigon, and Chess.
He ends his story on a happy note, with news of his recent marriage to the man of his dreams, and his fur-baby, a black lab named after a classical pianist, and also with a plea to continue the conversation. The show is so important to him because he believes that change starts with himself, and therefore asks us to keep talking about our own struggles with anxiety and depression, and to normalise reaching our for help. Mum and I chatted for ages after the credits had rolled about bullying, the stigmatisation of sexuality in her school days compared to mine, compared to now, the pros and cons of single-sex schools, and our hopes for the future, both personal and cultural.
I hope Dr Lane is happy that he succeeded in his aim, and I highly recommend others take an hour to enjoy Prepping for Theatre, which you can do easily from the comfort of your sofa, and take time afterwards to reflect on his story, and keep the conversation going.