Review: How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, Wilton’s Music Hall

“If they choose to, the company may dump any man”

The historic walls of Wilton’s Music Hall – the last surviving grand music hall in the world – may be old but they are far from old-fashioned. After their major refurb, the shift into becoming a producing venue has seen them adopt a varied multi-disciplinary programme of comedy and music as well as theatre (look out for the Tobacco Factory’s highly-rated Othello coming soon).

Sadly, their current revival of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying – the first major one in this country since its 1963 premiere – falls on the side of the fatally old-fashioned. Director Benji Sperring’s sure touch has seen him work wonders with shows like The Toxic Avenger but here, an inconsistency of tone and performance level means that it sits awkwardly on this august stage. Continue reading “Review: How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, Wilton’s Music Hall”

Review: The Stripper, St James Theatre

“Baby, you give me a hard-on”

If only, for Richard O’Brien and Richard Hartley’s The Stripper is a fantastically misjudged piece of theatre, an attempt at noir-ish convention dressed up in musical theatre clothing from 1982. This pair of Dicks give us a real dick, from Carter Brown’s pulp fiction story, in Al Wheeler, a detective trying to get to the bottom of the suicide of hot actress Patty Keller but do precisely nothing to address his dickishness. You could try and argue period detail with its 60s-set sexism but failing to interrogate it in this day and age is pretty much unforgivable.

Which is a shame as there’s the makings of something interesting here. Hartley and O’Brien’s score is an enjoyable mixture of period-appropriate musical influences that is toe-tappingly tuneful and catchy in places too. And director Benji Sperring has gathered a great cast of 5 who energetically cover a multitude of roles – Sebastien Torki and Gloria Onitiri both stand out. But where Sperring was able to tap into something with his most recent pulp project The Toxic Avenger, albeit still with a couple of tonal mis-steps, it’s much harder to reconcile what happens here. Continue reading “Review: The Stripper, St James Theatre”

Review: The Toxic Avenger, Southwark Playhouse

“Let me tell you a story about a man with a strange complexion”

Baby, can’t you see, I’m calling. A show like this, should wear a warning…that warning should be avoid the front row if you’re squeamish about having your face touched by strangers! For The Toxic Avenger is nothing if not hands on, drawing its Southwark Playhouse audience right into its B-movie world, the poison paradise of the New Jersey town of Tromaville. And as we come to see, whether just a taste on the lips or a full-body dunking, the effects of toxic waste Based on the 1984 film of the same name, a cult classic of which

I hadn’t heard, its hero is Melvin Ferd the Third, a geeky scientist determined to clean up the town but who soon finds himself the victim of such a dunking. Transformed and deformed, he emerges as Toxie, the Toxic Avenger – all rippling abs and dangling eyeballs – and newly fortified to tackle the dastardly Mayor whose scheming has caused the pollution and also take the plunge with hot blind librarian Sarah who rejected him as a nerd. Continue reading “Review: The Toxic Avenger, Southwark Playhouse”

Review: Legally Blonde The Musical, New Wimbledon Theatre

“You need to see me in a brand new domain” 

Legally Blonde The Musical turned out to be something of a surprise: a show that I grew to really love over my three visits during its West End run (review#1, review#2, review#3), whilst making a bona fide star out of its leading lady Sheridan Smith. I may not have been blown away by it on first viewing, but it worked its way into my heart and its soundtrack is one that I listen to quite often even now. Capitalising on its finish in London, a national tour of the show has taken up shop in the New Wimbledon Theatre, giving Londoners another chance to dip into the world of Elle Woods, if they’re willing to go to zone 3 that is.

Revisiting something that was so enjoyed though can have its pitfalls, as comparisons are invariably drawn. Some of it is about the realities of seeing a touring version of a show – the set will never be as impressive as in a West End house, but the design here really does come up short on a couple of occasions and the sound quality was shocking in parts. Elsewhere, some performances left me disappointed especially as the casting decisions don’t always seem to have hit the mark. It feels a little churlish to criticise Faye Brookes for not being Sheridan Smith, but her Elle doesn’t capture the loveability that is needed to keep the show swinging through its slower parts and to keep the audience invested. Gareth Gates takes on the thankless role of Warner very much against type and I’m not sure I bought him as the heartbreaker. Both sounded excellent though. Continue reading “Review: Legally Blonde The Musical, New Wimbledon Theatre”