(Seen at the Evening performance on 24th January 2013).
The monkey didn’t see this show at the time professional reviewers chose to give
it such a drubbing, so it can’t comment on how much it has changed in the weeks
since that press night. What it will say is that, the night it was finally
invited to see the show...
... it was, at the very least, entertained!
First, it must be said that this is really nicely designed. A lovely
revolving set (though those in the front ‘high numbered’ stalls will appreciate
that least) even if one actor at least managed to forget a ‘wall’ and drop a bag
overboard at one point. Nods for the lighting designer and wardrobe (that Union
Jack dress makes a witty late entrance) too. Back to school for the sound
designer, though, who seems to think ‘mud’ is an acceptable default setting for
the rear circle.
Those members of the cast who were not too dispirited by the reviews also
play it for all they are worth. Hannah John-Kamen, Dominique Provost-Chalkley,
Lucy Phelps and Siobhan Athwal are as credibly ‘green as they come’ as the girl
band going splitsville. Tamara “Twitter” Wall reveals further character acting
talent, while Simon Slater and Sally Ann Triplett wave the flag for the next
generation with a bedroom scene leaving audiences laughing but unable to enjoy
hearing “2 Become 1” ever again.
And then, alas comes the script. Jennifer Saunders suffers the typical “first
timer” problem of a missing ‘narrative drive.’ The first half mostly cobbles
together outtakes from “The X-Factor“ and “Absolutely Fabulous” to create both
semi-cardboard characters and hastily set-up situations. Having defined things,
the second half chucks the whole lot out of the window and ties up the remaining
plot in about ten lines, spread over an hour of decent song and dance
Sadly, this means that a perfect opportunity to extend our knowledge of the
characters and be the ‘biting satire on the genre’ that it would like to be, is
lost. It’s no real wonder about the professional reviews, and they are right in
that the storyline is pretty much the last consideration when it should have
carried the show.
Still, to quote Simon Cowell, even at its lowest point (around 15 minutes
in), the whole thing never descends below the “so bad, it’s good” level, and
quite frequently sparks sufficient to keep the audience engaged.
If there were scope to drop ticket prices to “cult fan” building levels, this
show would almost certainly find them. Certainly, too, it’s a pretty good choice
for an unsophisticated night out for those unfamiliar with musicals. Even (a few
‘adult’ moments aside) for a 13 or 14 year old girl’s birthday treat.
Regular musical theatre lovers willing to accept it on its own terms may also
find, as the monkey did, that such a relaxed evening can be a pleasant change