Welcome to a look at the Great American Songbook through the bottom of a glass which will bring completely new meaning to the terms Follies and Showstopper.
Dylan, our compère and accompanist tells us that one of the cast members of this off-off-off Broadway production has recently consumed three cans of lager and half a bottle of vodka. Cries of “amateur” from the audience are mitigated with the Xylophone and Recorder of Supplementary Imbibement. These can be used to tip our musical star over the edge should the audience feel that he is beginning to teeter towards teetotalism - as if. A bucket is also deployed for the charmingly entitled “vom-zone”, just in case.
And so, to our tale. The Rosenberg family are making the liner crossing to New York, off to make a fresh start in the USA and hopefully escape the gambling debts that have dogged them. Amidst noises-off Father launches into “I dreamed last night I got on the boat to Heaven, and by some chance I had brought my dice along”, but his tipsy cast mate (Joshua) has no desire to sit down and stop rockin’ the boat. Instead he decides that the song’s reference to a huge wave needs to be dramatised and upgraded to a tsunami and soon there is water everywhere. As this preoccupation continues he takes a pratfall amongst spilled drinks before complaining about the amount of liquid on stage.
Musical theatre as a genre of course involves acting, singing and dancing to express everything from love to hate. And we run the gamut for the rest of the show, but with the addition of fluffed and forgotten lines, non-Astaire dance steps, jazz hands not envisioned by Fosse, knocked over furniture and drunken excursions into the auditorium. The rest of the cast put in strong performances and sing and dance well while ad-libbing and trying to keep the story going in the face of adversity.
Like many of the film musicals, for the most part the plot is there just to hang the songs onto and it’s perfectly adequate here as the squabbling parents lose track of daughter Mary and she is led astray amongst the down-town night clubs by our drunk romantic hero.
His other obsession this evening is with his belief that the cast have a reputation for getting naked; something that the rest deny. There is a saying about musicals - “when the emotion becomes too strong for speech you sing; when it becomes too strong for song, you dance." To this he has added, when all else fails get naked.
The show is stopped a number of times as towels are deployed to mop up liquid and cover his dignity but despite best efforts he still manages to get his penis out. “And now a romantic scene” announces Dylan with perfect timing.
The choice of songs is actually good, with many of the jazz standards of the 1930’s through to the 1950’s and ranging from Gershwin to Rodgers and Hammerstein (or hammered-stein in this case).
This is a Magnificent Bastard offspring of Shit-Faced Shakespeare. While it remains a winning formula part of the attraction with the Bard’s work is the familiarity of the plot. You can see where it is going and the skill in getting it to a stumbling conclusion. This feels a little more out of control.
While not as successful as the original it’s still funny and if you like the idea of trashed thesps but think Shakespeare is shit, this might be the show for you.
Show Times: 5 to 31 (not 17) August 2015 at 6.45 pm.
Ticket Prices: £11 (£9) to £12 (£10).