This fast-paced, enjoyable hour stars four talented, versatile young performers from hit musicals Evita (Louise Dearman)and We Will Rock You (Ian Carlyle, Jon Boydon & Rachel Tudor, the latter via BBC 1’s I’d Do Anything). It alsopokes fun at a range of other West End Musicals from long-running favourites like Phantom of the Opera and Les Miserables to Avenue Q and High School Musical. It’s as upbeat a show as you could ever hope to experience and one that showcases the high levels of talent inherent to such musicals. As if those weren’t reasons enough to go see it, jesting aside, this show also offers a portion of its proceeds to TheatreMAD, the theatre industry’s new independent charity, established ‘to support those people facing hardship as a result of HIV, AIDS and other long term conditions’, as well as The Mercury Phoenix Trust, two additional reasons to lend it your support.
The audience at the St. George’s night Gala performance seemed to consist chiefly of young, fit musical theatre performers and judging by their abundant laughter of recognition once the show began, Garry Lake (currently Pop in We Will Rock You) has hit the theatrical nail right on its self-important head with his bitingly funny lyrical observations, which are often set to either recognisable pop tunes like Gloria Gayner’s disco hit ‘I Will Survive’ or melodies which sound as though they could have been lifted right from the parodied musicals themselves. Admittedly, this show takes its cues from Forbidden Broadway before it, though it’s decidedly British tone should make it all the more funny to both home audiences and visitors to the capitol alike. There are so many hilarious moments in this show that I hardly know where to begin, for to mention one would be to leave so many others out.
Host Paul Nicholas, himself a seasoned star of stage and screen contributed his fair share, with his deadpan, deadly funny parody of West End warhorse Les Miserables being one of the highlights. Ian Kelsey’s shamelessly banal take on Chicago which he has been in himself was also a very funny reminder that I’ve never laughed so much at the musical itself. Sandra Marvin, who is currently playing Motormouth Maybelle in Hairspray nearly brought the house town with her belting rendition of some telling lyrics, and the intimate New Player’s offered an excellent opportunity to hear this awesome (there you go, I’ve used the ‘A’ word) singer up close. But however strong these powerhouse supporters were, the real stars of this show are its four young, ever changing musical theatre performers – Rachel Tucker, Louise Dearman, Jon Boydon and Ian Carlyle whose combined talent is enough to light up several big-time theatre marquees. These performers have presence, moves, singing voices, (including various accents from Mockney to squeaky clean American teen) comedic timing to spare and there’s never a dull or vacant moment in this entire programme. In fact, it’s like a marathon of good-humour and fun which will have you laughing all the way. The live band also cooks merrily along, as though the process of backing such high energy performers is an experience they too are revelling in. One of the beauties of this show, which has already enjoyed successful runs at both Jermyn Street Theatre and Leicester Square Theatre last year, is that it can be intermittently updated to reflect new ironic insights as well as the dynamics of the ever-shifting landscape of West End’s theatre-land as new musicals are continually ushered onto the big boards.
Another great thing about it is that you don’t have to be an expert on contemporary musical theatre to appreciate it, as its always, very clear which shows are being lampooned and why, and I found all of the musical vignettes funny even though I hadn’t seen all of the shows. It’s also very high energy, so witnessing its economic, not a moment or opportunity for a laugh wasted ethos in action is an exhilarating experience. Despite my praises you may still be thinking that a one hour show is a bit too brief for its own good. If so, you should think again. This is one of the most entertaining hours I’ve spent in ages, and it’s also one well worth spending your hard earned dosh on, again and again, whenever the show reappears. All that’s left to say now is encore!
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