Edinburgh Fringe Review - Paper Hearts the Musical

Paper Hearts the Musical is a heartwarming new British musical currently debuting at the Edinburgh Fringe. The story takes place in two different worlds: the real word, and the world which takes place inside the book which Paper Hearts' protagonist Atticus Smith is in the middle of writing. In the real world Atticus is a newly single bookshop assistant who can't see eye to eye with Lilly Sprockett, the shop's new manager who is drafted in to oversee the its closure. 

Although initially when the plot switches between worlds the transitions feel a little disjointed, once the format is established and both worlds feel more fleshed out they interlink and overlap very slickly, thanks in no small part to the brilliantly efficient choreography of Lindsay McAllister, which frequently explores ingenious ways to spice both worlds together. All of this makes for a fast paced and compelling plot which is elevated by its folksy score. It is reminiscent of musicals such as Once and The Last 5 Years, but feels markedly different, fresh and new.
The cast of 11 (many of whom perform as actor-musicians) are absolutely first rate, with Adam Small  leading the show with his wonderfully quirky performance as Atticus. His distinctive voice perfectly suits the score, and he has great onstage chemistry with the striking and utterly charming Gabriella Margulies who plays Lilly. Meanwhile Matthew Atkins plays a role in both worlds and is as compelling as secretive Russian journalist Issak as he is endearing as Attacus' sweet but put-upon boss. However Special mention must go to Sinéad Wall who makes a particularly large impression as Yanna, Atticus' feisty literary creation. She perfectly encapsulates Yanna's immense mettle, but also injects a touching and humanising fragility into her performance. It would have been very interesting to see this developed further. 

In fact, the length of the piece is probably its only fault. Running at 1 hour and 15 minutes, it feels a little bit too short. It would be lovely to see the book expanded, in order for the audience to warm to the main quartet, and also avoid the clumping together of songs. The musical opens with three songs back to back, and although each of the songs is great, and necessary for expositional purposes, for a while it feels as if the whole musical is going to be sung through, and as a result it is a bit jarring when the dialogue begins.

Paper Hearts is an utterly magical new musical with so much potential. It will be exciting to see what happens to it over the next few years, but for now it's on at 6:40 at the Med Quad every day until the 29th. Completely unmissable!