Review: Cake – The Marie Antoinette Playlist, Lyric Theatre

Cake: The Marie Antoinette Playlist offers a bright and bold look at what contemporary musical theatre can be at the Lyric Theatre

“Every big story begins when change is needed”

In a week when people inexplicably lost their shit over the return of Starlight Express (because what we really need is another Andrew Lloyd Webber revival…), my jaded soul was thoroughly revived by the thumping club beats of Cake: The Marie Antoinette Playlist resounding through the Lyric Theatre, as it plays a week’s residency there as part of the development period for this new musical.

I’ll keep it short as I bought my ticket and there is this element of work-in-progress but I enjoyed it so much that I couldn’t let it pass uncommented on here. With a book by Morgan Lloyd Malcolm and Tasha Taylor-Johnson, score by Jack McManus and Taylor-Johnson, and direction and choreography by Drew McOnie, Cake takes a distinctly cock-eyed look at this iconic moment in history.

We’re covering the fall of the reign of Marie Antoinette through the eyes of Jeanne de Valois-Saint-Rémy, responsible for the Affair of the Diamond Necklace which was a major trigger for the start of the French Revolution. And with Lloyd Malcolm and Taylor-Johnson at the helm, this is no staid historical re-enactment but rather a retelling of history with a decidely and deservedly feminist bent.

The structure of the four-step plan is ingenious, a tight focus for the show from which it can spin off all its delightful detail. And having set up Jeanne as the working-class hero and Marie as the entitled airhead, the show has enormous fun in toying with those preconceptions. Renée Lamb and Zizi Strallen are huge amounts of fun in their respective roles, vocally stunning and nifty movers both.

As the title suggests, there’s a wide range of highly contemporary musical influences in the score – sinewy synth lines that Kylie would kill for, lyrical dexterity the pop girls would kill for (gotta love a show that rhymes derrière) and a real confidence in defying traditional musical theatre convention. It’s of a trend with the likes of Hamilton, SIX and Jamie but through its diversity it really develops its own character.

So yeah, I’m a fan of Cake, who’d’ve guessed it. Definitely one to look out for in the future and a great use of a West End house that might otherwise have been dark for a couple of weeks. I don’t imagine the economics of such short runs are easy but the benefits gained from mounting the show in front of audiences must be well worth it. It almost makes you glad of paying your tax.

Running time: 80 minutes (without interval)
Photos: Mark Senior
Cake: The Marie Antoinette Playlist is booking at the Lyric Theatre until 24th September

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