Friends At The Poolyard bring two new shows to The Pleasance this year, performing Teacher’s Pet and Hot As Hell on alternating nights. Teacher’s Pet is a satirical musical that tells the story of Jane, a high school senior, and her unrequited crush on her teacher.

The audience enters as the cast is warming up vocally and stretching on stage, which instantly creates a feeling that the fourth wall does not entirely exist in this show. This continues as the show begins and Jane, played by Aidan Futterman, delivers her dialogue directly to the audience, with a sardonic, deadpan delivery that has a self-awareness of the character’s foolishness and immaturity.

The show feels unbalanced, in the sense that Jane carries every song almost entirely solo, with minimal support from the ensemble. The remaining cast members are underused, performing sharp choreography with lots of energy, but only occasionally singing in harmony or delivering dialogue. Futterman is clearly vocally talented, but her voice sounded worn out at this performance (understandable given the intensity of the Fringe). If the songs had been more evenly split between the other characters, there may have been more strength in her singing.

The subject of Jane’s adoration, her teacher John McCormack, appears briefly in the show when Jane reads a love letter to him. The cast member portraying John doesn’t appear before this scene and isn’t used afterwards either. Although the scene provides a poignant shift in tone to give Jane the chance to be honest and vulnerable, without hiding behind her dry wit, and also includes a hilarious bit of dialogue, it feels an odd choice for him to only be present once. It would make more sense for him to be in multiple scenes, or not appear at all.

The book is the strongest element of this show, with Jane embodying Cher from Clueless and delivering some brilliantly funny one-liners. The understated wit continues through the lyrics in the songs, but some songs are highly repetitive and slow the pace down. The songs are generally musically underwhelming; they all sound pleasant and are performed well, but are used more to “speak” the lyrics rather than providing the opportunity for impressive vocals.

Tonally, the show is confusing – it’s humorous, but it’s about a predator grooming vulnerable teens. Towards the end of the show, I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to be laughing as the characters rant about rampant paedophilia. The ending is also incredibly abrupt, without a clear way of wrapping up the story, and some plot points are introduced right at the end but are not explored further.

The writers and cast of Teacher’s Pet are clearly talented, but this show needs some polishing before it’s ready for a bigger stage.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

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