Review: When Midnight Strikes, Drayton Arms

“Strike up the band, make it piping hot”

MKEC Productions have been carving out a niche for themselves in conjuring fringe productions of lesser-known musicals and in Charles Miller and Kevin Hammonds’ When Midnight Strikes, directed by Marc Kelly, they’re onto a winner. Set in a Manhattan apartment on New Year’s Eve 1999, a plush dinner party looks set to career off the rails as the hostess has discovered that her husband is cheating and the guests are just about to arrive.

Admittedly, Hammonds’ book is a tad sketchily drawn – 11 partygoers and the waitress/actress serving them all jostling for space, and so naturally not all get a fair whack at the wheel of the main narrative. And set so specifically at the millennium, its humour and reference points feel weirdly dated, with an almost US sitcom feel. What Kelly’s production does do though is highlight that it is still a set of potentially vibrant character studies and so the company respond by each seizing their moment. Continue reading “Review: When Midnight Strikes, Drayton Arms”

Review: Musical of the Year, LOST Theatre

“I yearn as I burn”

Stephen Lanigan-O’Keeffe and Owain Rose’s Musical of the Year pops up as something of a surprise, a genuinely funny musical theatre extravaganza in the mould of something like Forbidden Broadway as it parodies any number of big musicals from the last 60 years. The conceit is a simple one – the year is 1955 and college sweethearts Rudy Brown and Lizzie Conlon are looking for ways to update a musical they wrote together. They decide to ape the style of the big award-winning musical of the year and when that fails, Rudy tries time and time again.

Their show is based on The Hunchback of Notre Dame, so we’re instantly given a helping hand in terms of the story being told. But even then, there’s a clever advancement of the travails of Quasimodo, Esmeralda et al that brings real interest to the songs, in addition to the pastiches that they engender. There’s an occasional urge to overegg the pudding in terms of making sure we ‘get’ it (the shows referenced are all in the programme) but if you can resist, there’s real joy in working out what’s coming next and its plot will be intertwined with the events of the show. Continue reading “Review: Musical of the Year, LOST Theatre”

Review: Lucky Stiff, Drayton Arms Theatre

“Worlds of things to try, how can you refuse them?”

Everyone’s gotta start somewhere and for writer Lynn Ahrens and composer Stephen Flaherty, their musical theatre career began with their 1988 show Lucky Stiff. They’d go on to win Tony Awards for shows like Ragtime but this work definitely has the feel of a writing team still finding their feet. An adaptation of the Michael Butterworth novel The Man Who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo, this musical farce makes bold claims from its opening number ‘Something Funny’s Going On’ but sometimes you’re left wondering if its funny-haha or just funny-odd.

It’s an unevenness that is underlined by MKEC Productions’ approach here at the Drayton Arms, director Marc Kelly reaching ambitiously to give us all the conventions of a farce, as it plays out here in a Monte Carlo hotel but on limited means, failing to conjure much luxury or laughter. Without the knowing wink to acknowledge the naffness, in a manner like Acorn Antiques say, the attention can’t help but be drawn to unwieldy yet wobbly door frames and barely disguised camp beds, which is a shame as this enthusiastic company deserve better. Continue reading “Review: Lucky Stiff, Drayton Arms Theatre”