Review: Wag! The Musical, Charing Cross

“I really have a heart, let that be known,
I once sponsored an elephant in Sierra Leone”

I doubt anyone is turning up to WAG! The Musical expecting insightful commentary into the illusory nature of celebrity and the socio-economic impact of the WAG phenomenon on a generation of young women. But it is hard to see exactly what Tibetan writer Belvedere Pashun is trying to achieve or say. This is no indictment of the WAG lifestyle – with personal spray tan artists and eyelash suppliers credited in the programme, how could it be – and it seems like it wants to break away from the stereotypical image of these figures to show the real women within.

But it is hard to feel any vestige of sympathy or indeed empathy for any of them when everything they do pertains to received notions of WAGdom. The tottering around in sky-high heels, the money-grabbing chase after rich men, the turning up to any event which has the label ‘celebrity’ plastered on it, sleeping with other women’s husbands, acting like a grade-A bitch when you’ve been caught sleeping other women’s husbands and still somehow getting away with it. There’s no real attempt to show that there could be anything more to a WAG than these situations and so the stereotypes end up being reinforced.

Matters aren’t helped by an odd approach to casting which prioritises real-life WAG experience over genuine stage chops. Lizzie Cundy have interviewed a thousand celebrities and spoken to Andrew Lloyd Webber about whether to take a part in this show, but none of that stops her from being uncomfortably wooden onstage and missing any kind of comic timing. Pippa Fulton as the bitchiest WAG Vicci hails from a stagier background but also trades on her real-life status and both these women completely overdo hand movements whilst singing, overcompensating for the lack of genuine emotion.

The arrival of Ariadne the Greek WAG further baffles things. The creation of comedian Alyssa Kyria, Ariadne’s patter is straight-up stand up as she rattles through a series of (mainly Greek) bawdy jokes – it’s not that she’s not funny but it feels very much as if she has wandered in from another show, her material barely integrated with the book. And elsewhere the lack of experience shows: as the lead character of sorts, Daisy Wood-Davis’ Jenny has a pleasant sounding voice but her compatriot, Amy Scott’s Sharron, fails to really register on the stage, likewise the ensemble need to sharpen up and strengthen vocal and dance lines.

Certain of Alison Pollard’s directorial choices don’t help either. Opening the show with an ensemble-led number leaves them extremely exposed for something for which they’re not quite ready; choreography appears in the randomest of places, the number in the basement is basically inexplicable; and there’s a cringeworthy, saccharine group moment with the song Always Tomorrow which feels like the cheesiest of endings, only to be followed by yet more scenes, in this case showing Paris off in a most sophisticated way…

The score by Grant Martin, Thomas Giron-Towers and Tony Bayliss is perfectly passable, inoffensive rather than inspired, though one wonders what a stronger vocal company would have made of it. There are hints of that with two of the subsidiary female characters: Katie Kerr’s lewd Blow-Jo (yes, it’s her name) and Nia Jermin’s Charmaine have excellent voices and a surer comic touch which makes their numbers really stand out, it’s just a shame they’re both quite limited in the show.

Don’t get me wrong, I love a trashy show and a silly musical and if this had cleaved closer to the spirit of Footballer’s Wives, I suspect it could have been a roaring success. But by reducing the fun quotient and taking itself a little too seriously, it becomes a disappointingly dull affair. Which charges £4.50 for a pen from its mechandising table. 

Running time: 2 hours 30 minutes (with interval)
Programme cost: £4
Booking until 24th August

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