The Cambridge Geek

36 Questions

From the creators of Limetown comes a rather different thing, a musical based on the 36 Questions which have been discussed as a possible method to fall in love with a stranger.

Natalie (Jessie Shelton) and Jase (Jonathan Groff) got together two years prior to the start of the podcast, and turned the 36 Questions into their first date. Unfortunately, Natalie lied in her answers to all of them. And kept lying, throughout their marriage. For two years. Until Jase caught her. And ran away to his childhood home, far from everybody to start putting both it and himself back together.

So Natalie hunts him down, hoping that if they do the 36 Questions again, this time honestly, it might rescue their marriage. Which is where the first episode of this three episode podcast begins, with Natalie stood on the doorstep singing the sort of reconciliation song you'd normally get at the start of Act 3. The musical follows their conversation, going through the questions, their painful history and where they can go from there.

The necessary question of why this is being recorded is solved straight off with Natalie's obsession with getting everything "on the record" and this sets up one of the show's neat running jokes, with Natalie making pointed asides to describe what's going on. It's always something silly. Though you have to wonder whether this is so she can keep better track of her lies.

This is mostly comedic, with the dialogue between our two characters constantly popping. It's got a few nice geek references thrown in, as well as some timely interjections by Henry, Jace's recently found/adopted "really chill duck". However, it sneaks into an unexpectedly dark place for the second episode, with a quick line in the centre of one of the songs that had me pulling a "what" face.

The limited cast does mean that there's perhaps more repetition than you'd get with a wider range of voices, but it's not too noticeable. It does give the show an intimacy that works really well with its emotional vulnreability though. The experience of having their argument going on around your head is a compelling one.

It's a remarkably full orchestra, with the final episode credits including a pretty long list of musicians, and the soundtrack running all over the place, though frequently ending up back somewhere jazzy I quite enjoyed. It reminded me, more than anything else of Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, which I obviously enjoyed. Has the same sort of feeling.

I'm a bit of a fan of musicals, though tend to be terrible at getting to see them in the theatre, so own quite a lot of cast recordings instead. The downside of those is that they're often lacking the book, so this format, which includes everything is enticing. May now have to see what else has been done like this.

If you're a fan of musicals, definitely make the effort to listen to this.

(Don't be put off by the unfortunate advertising at the start of the show. It's an annoying necessity of podcasts, but I wouldn't say no to paying for a compiled version which was cleaned up and free of them.)

Score 4

Tagged: Audio fiction Dramedy Two hander Musical Romance Serial